As we arrived back at her house, after our journey from Growing Nations to the taxi ramp in town, and then to the local orphanage, we took a moment to just breathe and sit for awhile. Some of the local village girls had quickly come to the house once they heard of my arrival, which meant going outside to play with them for awhile, learn their games,
Glory and I sat at their kitchen table which is white with rust spots and tilts from one side to the other. She sat in the old metal kitchen chair while she fetched me a nice chair from the dining table to sit in. We sat and ate quietly as I noticed my plate had more food than hers, but as the guest, this was normal.
After lunch was done she began doing the dishes that we had used and cleaning the pots that had been used the previous day. I leaned against the deteriorating counter with exposed cork board and asked her story about how she arrived at Trust for Africa (TFA) as the Director of TFA had mentioned earlier while we were there visiting.
She looked up from the beaten small silver pot she was washing and began to peer out the window as if she was in search of something or someone. A gaze so strong you could see the emotion welling up inside. She appeared sincere, but distant as if the story she was about to share was sharing a piece of herself. Reminding her of a life that once was. Reliving a time that has now past.
She was about in 3rd grade when her mother disappeared. She had left for work as she did before and left them for awhile, but when she left she would normally return. This time…she disappeared and no one could find her. They had an older brother who was supposed to support them and care for them but in view of their current circumstances, he wasn’t able to. She had two brothers outside of the brother that is with her now and her older brother. Where they are or what happened to them…it’s still a mystery.
When their village chief found these two children without support or care, she got the police involved to try and find the mother or sibling but…as much as they hoped, they were nowhere to be found. No death, no accident report, no reason why. They just vanished. Similar to something out of a story book or an act of a good magician. It was as if they were a vapor in the wind or a cool breeze passing by. Never really there to begin with and now gone without a trace.
The chief realized that these children would now be her responsibility to take care of and that is when they contacted Trust for Africa, an orphanage in maphutseng- mohalesoek that took in children that either had no families or their family needed strengthening for the children to be able to return to their home.
They searched for awhile to try and find some relatives for Glory and her little brother. The director at Trust for Africa and their staff would ask and wonder. They would try to use their birth certificates and search through documents to see if by any chance they could find one, even if it was just one, single relative to hopefully match these kids with.
After about 6 years (2014-2020) they finally found Glory’s aunt, who she calls her grandmother. She was living in the small village of Ncu-Ncu outside of Mohelesoek and Maphutseng. She lived their with her brother, husband, and her own children, but is now currently working in the Limpopo province of South Africa to help support their family.
Thankfully, they were matched. TFA got ahold of the family, told them about the children, and they received them into their home. From there Glory filled out an application at TFA for an agriculture program that taught students how to Farm God’s Way at an organization called Growing Nations. Being one of 6 students selected from the many applications, Glory spent 10 months at growing nations learning how to protect the soil, build her own compost, farm different varieties of plants not only to sell, but to also help feed her family.
I have the honor and privilege of getting to know Glory and spend time with her as she teaches me her way of life and allows me to stay in their home. To help farm their land, do house chores, help make meals, do laundry, and make bread.
Moreover, she was the one to challenge my faith the most. From asking me questions about scripture to questions about Israel and Egypt, there were sometimes I would run to my Bible at night so that the next day I was prepared with answers.
On the other hand there was one question in particular that stopped me dead in my tracks. It took me back for a moment to a time in my life that I once lived, but now have moved on. The question, “You build relationships and pray for people to share the gospel, but what about when your words of encouragement and stories bring up past hurt or cause more damage than good?”
To her…she saw pastor after pastor or group after group come into the orphanage with a “word of encouragement,” but all it left her with was the hurt and reminder of what she was living without.
To me…the reminder of how many people tried to empathize with me over their own loss when my mom passed away.
A valid question, now the challenge of coming up with a good answer.
So often as missionaries we come prepared with testimonies and stories and the hope of the gospel to a group of people or children we deem lost. We know the answer to their every need in life is Jesus, but what do you do when that message falls flat. Did we not deliver it right? Do you leave and hope that, “a seed was planted,” and “one day God will make it grow”?
What happens when the message you bring has not caused a reminder of hurt instead of hope?
To be honest…she was right. In the moment I couldn’t give her a solid answer except that each person’s testimony and story of hope may not always empathize with each individual we come in contact with, but all it takes is causing a spark in one person. Maybe they have lived through something similar. An addict may not be able to empathize with a victim of abuse. A divorcee may not be able to empathize with someone who’s had a miscarriage. A pastor with a message of hope telling an orphaned girl to look on the bright side.
Harsh. I know, but here’s my point. As we step out into the world, if we are to be effective in attacking hell with a squirt gun, we need to slow down the process. Learn their names, learn about their story, their background, find out the kind of life and culture they are coming from because then you will not only be able to experience a perspective shift…but a kingdom shift. To see the world through another’s eyes. To see the hurt in their eyes, the dismay and reasons why. To allow them to feel heard and loved despite the background they come from. It’s takes a great deal of effort to step out in faith and preach the gospel…it takes courage to put yourself aside and for a moment allow them to be human to and then come in with the love of Jesus.
Just because you may not relate to everyone doesn’t mean we should keep from telling our testimonies of what God has done in our lives, but maybe just maybe instead of being the first to open our mouths, we can be the first to close it and listen. All it takes is one. One moment…one person…who may hear your story and their life is now forever changed.
“…blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear. I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but they didn’t see it. And they longed to hear what you hear, but they didn’t hear it. “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”” Matthew 13:3-9, 13, 16-23 NLT
When you look you can look away…but when you see…when you truly see the person before you, you can’t unsee. Forever imprinted on your soul, their name constantly on your mind, their name forever in your prayers. What kind of kingdom impact would we make if we not only preached the gospel but continued to pray for those we preach to. To walk alongside those we can, disciple those before us, and praise God for each one. Seed planted in good soil takes time to grow…but who is taking care of the seed?
Glory…a name forever burned on my heart and in my prayers. A story that opened my eyes and challenged my faith.
A seed was planted, in her heart and mine.