As I sit to write this, I realize I should be packing. However, I remain true to the procrastinator within, and think this is as good of a time as any to write a blog that has been a long time coming.
The past few months of my life have been anything but stable. If I told you all of the stories of my life from these last few months, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t believe me. I’m not sure I would, if I hadn’t lived it. The good news is this: I have had a couple of weeks and some really great friends who have helped me to process many of the events, and life is slowly but surely turning around.
This is my attempt at a “short” version of what I have been up to the past few months.
First, the good news: Our (SHADE’s) Education Centre closed at the end of June. It was a bitter-sweet closing. I truly loved my time teaching and getting to know each of our students, and was sad to see them go. I also experienced for the first time the joy of a teacher when she (or he) sees her students succeed. In many ways, I felt like I was more proud on graduation day than they were, and I have an entirely new appreciation for the teachers who helped me along my journey. I had no idea the work, hope, love and joy that come not just from teaching, but from watching students succeed or walk across the state. To all of the students of Espoir Centre: Congratulations!
The week after graduation was when the whirlwind of my life began to pick up. SHADE has undergone a lot of changes since moving to Johannesburg in January. As the Training Centre prepared to close, concerns about SHADE had begun to grow. Is the work (and financial need) of SHADE sustainable? Will there be enough work for THREE Mission Interns to keep busy? Would it perhaps be in the better interest of SHADE to not have Missionaries they needed to be concerned with while they were also undergoing other large changes that had little to do with us, but that would affect our work? One of the biggest questions had little to do with our work, but with growing concerns over our housing situation: it was increasingly clear that it would be best if we could move to a safer, healthier place near people, especially as tensions grew with our landlord. Basically, all of the concerns for SHADE we have had over the past several months boiled down to one big question: is the best place for us (Mission Interns) really at SHADE?
As Hannah, Rachel and I each took time to pray and reflect on some of these questions, so did some of the staff at GBGM. In the end, the decision GBGM came to was that it would be best for all parties if the three of us were re-appointed to work with other ministries for the rest of the duration of our international placements. This means we were looking for work within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and preparing to begin placements all over again. In many ways, it was reminiscent of the anxiety over my placement I had while waiting to hear in June and July of 2009, or again in September 2009 when it was changed last minute.
This decision was not an easy one. The days that followed, the questions that have been asked and addressed, the move that took place: these are the encounters that create the unbelievable stories that are now to be tallied in my crazy book of life. We have new memories of the sad day we packed up our desks. We have crazy stories about the day we moved all of our personal belongings out of our house in 15 minutes. Stories of adrenaline, of joy, of sorrow. Stories that make me sad, bring me joy, or just make be laugh in unbelief.
One of our biggest concerns was free time: we had already wrapped up our work at SHADE. The World Cup ended two days after we told Papa David we were leaving. Would we waste away with no work to do for the next month?
Of course, God has this all under control. On Tuesday, 13 July, 4 days after we were officially done with our work at SHADE, I wrote this blog about meeting my friends Emily and Joanne for the first time. Little did we know this would not be a one-time pastoral visit. Quite the contrary, we returned the next morning to greet and pray with their newly arrived family from the US, and basically, we never left. We took so well to Jen and Matt (Emily’s parents, Joanne’s son and daughter-in-law) that they were soon telling the nurses we were immediate family so we could spend more time with them in the ICU. They were in South Africa nearly a month, during which time we saw them every day, blessed with opportunities to love, laugh, pray, sing, watch movies, share meals, etc. with them. We even took our turns staying overnight with Emily; Emily had become like a little sister to me, and it was as if I had known them my entire life.
As they prepared to leave, it was only then that I realized how much we needed each other during this time. God really did have it under control: we could not have made it through that trying, difficult month of change without them and without another ministry to keep us busy. As the Kerstetters packed up to go home, I made may way to Durban (a much needed vacation I wrote about below). Another week at home in Johannesburg to pack and get ready to go, and here I am: Saturday I move to Cape Town, where a new chapter of my life and work will begin. I am moving nearly 2 months after serious conversations of moving began, and I somehow do not feel like I have had enough “down” time to even process all of these changes. Yet I am grateful to be moving forward before I have begun to feel stagnant. Balance is everything, so though I am not yet sure if I am ready to go, I move forward this week, leaving Rachel and Hannah in Johannesburg, where they still await their appointments.
Though I know this “update” is long, vague and nondescript, I hope it also serves as a small window into some of the changes that have occurred. My next updates will be from Cape Town, where I slowly put the pieces of my life and work together again, hopefully gleaning valuable lessons from the challenges of the past several months. As I do so, and as Rachel and Hannah continue in a state of transition and uncertainty, I ask your continued prayers and support. For if there is anything that can be said with absolute certainty from the past 10 months, it is that we would not have made it through without prayer.