The past few weekend have been eventful and full of time to spend with the Ilunga family, as we are invited/expected to be at family events. It has been a great way to get to know them better - the girls but perhaps especially Mama and Papa while outside of work-related events.
The first of these family weekend events was the weekend we returned from the Congo. In true Ilunga style, we received a text message at 3 telling us to be ready to be picked up at 5. That's it. We didn't know why, or where we were going. We did call to find out if we should eat supper first, to which we received a surprised "of course not! We're going out to eat!" haha, ok... good to know, right?
The purpose for this particular outing was to celebrate Debbie's 17th birthday! One more year as a minor... and she made sure we knew it! We - the 5 Ilunga girls, Mama & Papa, Clifford, Vixa, Rachel, Hannah & I - gathered for some much-needed laughs over our celebratory dinner, complete with singing a few rounds of Happy Birthday to implement proper amounts of embarrassment for the birthday girl!
On our way out, we did manage to stop for a family photo. Too bad the pretty blue wall behind us doesn't look so pretty with the flash ruining the sweet lighting. But you get the idea. :)
Our next outing was the following Friday, for which we gathered for yet another Ilunga family birthday - this time, Judy was turning 19! Again meeting up at the Waterfront for dinner, we added more people to our group and did our best to sing, take photos, etc. A quality bonding activity with the family, we are definitely starting to see different sides of them - esp Mama Tembo - and I love it! It also helped piece together where "innocent" little Nissia gets all her spunk from! haha
For the third weekend in a row, we spent a day this past weekend at another family function, this time at a wedding Mama and Papa were hosting (as the godparents of the groom). The ceremony was beautiful and provided an eventful and full day of events, beginning early (not until 10am for us) with preparations and continuing on an "African time" schedule. Following the ceremony, we (the entire wedding party, which we somehow became a part of and Hannah became the official photographer for) made our way around town for photos. We stopped at the city garden, where this group photo was taken, then moved to Milnerton beach, where a few of us managed to go play in the water while the photos were being shot. Eventually we made it back to the Ilunga home, where the entire party gathered to eat lunch and do that thing we are oh-so-very good at these days: wait. Nearly everyone changed to eat so they wouldn't spill on the fancy attire, only to begin with hair, make-up and new outfits for the reception. As usual, this took a bit longer than anticipated, and we arrived at the reception just over two hours late. The guests are clearly used to this routine, though, as when we entered about 15 minutes before the couple, everyone seemed content as could be just hanging out in the reception hall.
The arrival of the couple meant a meal was soon to follow, followed by lots of dancing and photo opportunities (Hannah did a great job!). The party got one so late and everyone had such a good time cutting the cake was nearly forgotten! Seriously. It was so late when it was finally cut they decided not to bother serving it, and shortly thereafter the couple left, encouraging the guests to do so soon thereafter. A great time was had by all, but the time we left, we were definitely exhausted and thankful to be going home. We did manage to get one quick picture of the 3 of us in our "reception dresses" on our way out the door, though. A definite shout-out must be had to the Ilunga girls, once again, for letting us go through their closets (per request of Mama Tembo). All 3 of us started in clothing we'd taken the previous week. Then in the afternoon we unexpectedly changed into eveningwear... again, courtesy (not that it was always a choice) of the Ilunga closets. They're pretty stylish girls, huh?
This has been a lot of excitement in a little bit of time, especially since we spent today at a town meeting in Atlantis! (hopefully more on that later) With the youth Stay Awake Friday (read: lock-in only everyone seriously stays awake all night) and another wedding on Saturday (that we are not anticipating making after being up all night, if we can help it), to say we are tired would be an understatement. Its that good kind of tired, though. The kind that keeps me alive and remembering what we are living for. That every day is a new day, that every moment presents a new opportunity for adventure, that there are countless ways to enjoy life through love, laughter, and joy.
These are the kinds of moments I am living for. I have embarked on this crazy adventure. I have moved to South Africa because I believe God has called me to live and work and pray and serve.... and learn. Each day (like these) that I have to live more fully into the community I have been welcomed into here, I know I am being shaped. Sometimes, it feels like pinning and prodding. Most of the time, it feels like love shared between friends and family. That's how it feels today, and I realize I must have the best "job" in the world: I would rather be no other place in the world than right here, right now. That, friends, is an incredible feeling, and I praise God for it! and I praise God for you - my supporters and prayer warriors and friends and family who have helped support me and bring me to this place. Really, truly, from the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you for being a part of this journey with me.