“Ms. Martin, do you HAVE to leave us?” a young man raised his hand one day in class.

He was a quiet student, one who tried not to be noticed, one who seldom raised his hand, one who I never thought would care that I was leaving.  I sucked in my breath and choked down tears and just nodded yes.

“Okay,” he said quietly and looked down at his desk.

Talk about a knife through my already heavy heart.  He wasn’t the only one who asked.  But others seemed to understand: “That’s great that you’re doing this!  Those girls need you.  This is what you wanted.”  It’s true, of course.  But there’s more to the story.  They didn’t really understand either.  But how could I make anyone understand the turmoil of being ripped in two different directions.  The waterworks of tears had begun.

In the beginning of the school year, I asked God to give me a reason to stay this year.  He gave me too many.  There are countless reasons to stay grounded here in the States, especially since this has been the most fruitful year of my life.  I adore my students.  I love them like I would my own.  And they have showered me with love and appreciation unlike any other time of my life.  I almost feel guilty because I feel so cherished by them.  If I were to make a pros and cons list of leaving and moving to Swazi, my cons list would be twice as long as my pros, and it’d look something like this:

-living alongside Tenele and helping care for her babes, Lucia and Luciano
-bringing the healing and hope of Christ into the girls home
-mentoring and mother the girls that already call me “Make” meaning mother (some haven’t even met me yet!)
-seeing my Swazi family and playing with my basketball ballas again
-seeing old friends and students
-walking everywhere (a pro and a con)
-buying fruit/snacks off the streets from my Swazi bomake (mothers)
-hearing people say my name as “Mahdi-Kate” because they can’t pronounce the “r”
-KFC there is phenomenal

-not being able to drink water directly out of a faucet
-flying cockroaches
-driving on the left side of the road
-learning how to drive stick shift
-random cows, chickens, and pot holes in the roads
-the summer HEAT is miserable
-skin maggots — NEVER AGAIN!
-crazy drivers
-Marula season and drunk men
-being asked for marriage or money every other day
-not being able to be out at night (especially when the sun set early at 5/5:30)
-having to carry toilet paper with me b/c most public toilets don’t have tp, or you have to pay to use the toilet
-immediate internet access
-living where I won’t get alone time hardly at all
-paying for airtime for phone use
-a clean shower with proper water pressure
-job security
-no Reeses PB cups or real peanut butter or Almond Milk or… (there’s a LONG list for this one)
-not getting hugs from family and friends
-being away from people I love and who love me, family, friends, coworkers, and of course my beloved students–my “American kids”
-the list goes on…

So why go, then?

Because I’m called to go.  Because I gave my life over to the Lord years ago and told Him, “You can have all of me.”  Because I sang the lyrics to the song, “Where you go, I’ll go, where you stay I’ll stay, when you move, I’ll move, I will follow you.”  So, when people say they are happy for me because I got what I wanted, I wanted to stay in Swazi so now I am, they’re missing it though.  My ultimate want is to do God’s will, that is my one desire in life.  I would not choose to move to Swazi right now, if it weren’t for God’s calling.  But because it is God’s desire, it is mine.

So, to any of you who, like my students, have also questioned, “Why do you have to go?”

I need to go.  I need to go in order for God to be glorified.  In order for Him to be glorified in Swazi and here.  If I have really done my job here, then my absence should increase growth.  I am not meant to be the source of love or hope or grace; I am simply a water spout for it to pour out.  I am only a reflection of the Source, so when taken away, the Source remains and there must now be new reflectors.  It’s time for others to rise up, to let God use them to be His venue for Hope and Healing; one of my students already told me she would be this, and I could not be more fulfilled.  It’s time for growth.  And that cannot be done while I remain here, otherwise some might think it’s me alone that loves them not knowing the Source from which the love comes.  So I close with the verse that sits on my nightstand, the verse that became my prayer focus this school year:

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the SOURCE of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that hold no water.” -Jeremiah 2:13 

When I leave, may my footsteps lead to the source of living water.  The waterfall will come and some will thirst no longer.

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