Over the past two months, I
didn’t chase after Tenele. I didn’t
pursue her or go looking for her at Mangwaneni like in the past. (In fact, I didn’t go to Mangwaneni very much
because I couldn’t face the pain of seeing Tenele there.) There is a time and season for everything,
and that season of relentless pursuit was over and a new one began—one of
patience and grace. God had asked me to
pursue Tenele, to take up the motherly version of Hosea’s story and continue to
bring Tenele back, showing her over and over again the extent of God’s love
redeeming love for her…until she could finally believe that she was worth it. Then He asked me let go and to wait.
hope. And it has been a thorough test of my trust in God. Do I believe His
promises? Do I believe He has the best
for Tenele? That no matter where she is,
or what situation she is in, He can still restore her? Do I have faith in prayer? If you want to prove something is true, it
must withstand the test of time. If you
want to know if someone loves you, ask them to wait, and see how long they’ll
commit to waiting for you. My faith has
been tested many times during this seven-year long story with Tenele. But with every test I realize how impatient I
still am. Yet, with every failure, with every
new hope, my faith only grows stronger.
I rejoice in the hardships, in the tears, in the separation from Tenele,
because it will be the source of our future joy. So, over the past couple months, while I
didn’t actively reach out for Tenele, I fought for her in daily prayer and
waited for God to work wonders in her heart.
And He did.
week and sometimes weekly, whether through a letter, a quick hello over the
phone, or coming to the volunteer house.
There has NOT been even ONE of these times that I haven’t seen her
cry. Every single letter she wrote said
the same three main statements and one question: “I’m sorry for
everything. I don’t know what I’m
doing. I want to go back to God. Please, mom, please forgive me.” She had to beg for forgiveness, not because I
haven’t forgiven or God hasn’t forgiven her but because she couldn’t forgive
herself. She hated herself, and the
inner battle became clearer and clearer.
Finally, on one of her visits, I said, “Tenele, you keep saying you want
to go back to God. You tell me that you
pray every night and ask Him for help.
But what are you doing about
it?” It was like she wanted God to
magically rescue her from her darkness and pain without having to do anything
herself. But that’s not faith. That’s
not a relationship. For several weeks
she wanted to go back to church, but every time Sunday rolled around she
couldn’t. She was crippled by fear and
pride. I told her she must pray for
humility. And she did. And wow…
stayed over at the volunteer house with another girl Nomvula, who had run away
from the girls’ home months ago. On
Sunday they both went to Potter’s Wheel Church with us; it was the church
Tenele attended when she was in her rehab program at Teen Challenge. She said she loved the Pastor and his
preaching always made her cry, but she was afraid to see the people she had run
away from. During the service, she came
alive. She cried and praised and
prayed. At the end, she took my hand,
trembling, and asked me to walk her to the pastor. When we got to him, Tenele was so overcome
with tears of repentance that she couldn’t even speak. The South African pastor spoke encouragement
and words of redemption over Tenele and then prayed over her. Nomvula, who had been grumpy and
disinterested the whole morning, lit up and glued her eyes on Tenele as she
wept in front of the pastor.
that moment everything changed and Tenele’s life was completely restored. But that’s not the journey of faith I
know. Faith is a process in which
growing pains are required. This was
another major piece of the uncompleted puzzle, but of course it’s not finished
Friday Bible studies at Mangwaneni, Tenele tried helping, translating, praying,
and keeping the drunkenness of other women under control. She came to the volunteer house during the
workshop hours and spent time with Lucia and Luciano. One day, she read the Bible for a straight 2
hours. Still, she refused to leave her
last week, she came to me and said, “Mom, I need to tell you my problems. I need help.”
I asked questions about her current lifestyle and she was honest. She said the temptations surround her and she
can’t always say no. (I had heard from others
that she was living with a “boyfriend” again.) She
talked about her prostitute friends and how she even asked one the other night
to go with her to a different area but she told her no. Offended, Tenele said, “You’re just jealous
and don’t want me to come.” Her friend
told her sternly, “No, this is not a good life.
This is no good life for you, Tenele.”
Tenele asked me if she was right.
“Because sometimes they come in the morning with 400 rand and they
always have money. If they bring KFC and
I ask them to share, they say no. So I
think, fine, I will get it on my own, too.”
She asked me if that was okay. It
sounds weird that she asked me, but they were sincere questions. Was selling her body bad? Was money bad? If she didn’t have money how else could she
get it? What if she wanted KFC or nice
shoes? Where did God fit into all of
by the Holy Spirit, I shared with Tenele the story of the Parable and the
Sower. As the words came out, I realized
that I have had the incredible honor of seeing and experiencing this Scripture
parable to its (almost) full. Tenele had
been the seed on the path where Satan came to steal the Word away before her
faith could take root. She had been on
this path for years, her faith only being a topic of conversation and a means
to getting what she wanted, but it never took root. Until Teen Challenge. Teen Challenge changed Tenele to the second
soil: the seed on the rocks, where she sprouted up quickly but withered away
because of the weak root. Tenele’s faith
during her time at Teen Challenge skyrocketed.
She was a plant higher than any others; however, with the pain of her
past bearing more weight than the root could hold, she crumbled. And now, now she’s on the thorns. She is so hungry for God. She wants to know truth. She wants to understand. She desperately wants God. But she also wants the desires of the flesh,
the pleasures of the world.
I cannot wait until you get into the fourth soil in the parable—the rich
soil! You will bear fruit for this
nation more than you can imagine!”
eyes were big and hopeful. “Mom, I want
to leave Mangwaneni…” and she started crying.
She couldn’t talk, so she wrote on a piece of paper. She asked if she could come and clean the
house for small payment so she could get bus fare to go back to her real mom’s
homestead an hour outside the city. I
was shocked. I was hesitant. But that’s what she believed would help give
her the necessary time she needed away from distractions so she can focus on
her relationship with God. She had
forgiven her mother and believed it was safe to give the relationship another
dropped her off one week ago. I am very
nervous for her, as we had tried moving her to this homestead in the past and
it turned out to be a wreck, hurting Tenele even more because of the lack of
love she received from her real mom. To
be honest, I don’t believe things will be different from her mom, even though
her mom said it’s okay for Tenele to stay with her for awhile. But I think what will be different is
Tenele’s relationship with God, and that will affect everything, making it an
opportunity to reconnect with her mom and get the necessary healing she needs
from her past.
join me in praying for Tenele and her mother and this time out in the rural
homestead for Tenele to find her center in Christ again, to remove the thorns
and become the seed on rich soil.