I really wanted to write a “Happy new year” post three weeks ago, but 2020 hit with a bang and I got a bit lost in a mountain of to do lists - So, here we are in week 96 of January and I would just like to say “happy new year” to everyone reading this. I know this year is going to be something special. I have a tinkle about it.
This past weekend I had the pleasure to meet an American student, currently studying journalism in Belgium. We immediately started chatting away about the power of stories, and asking the right questions. It felt like we’ve known each other for years!
It’s interesting when we meet new people that we get the chance to reiterate what our dreams are, and what we are passionate about. As we were talking I was made deeply aware of how I am just completely in love with sharing stories… I know it sounds strange, but it’s like I kind of forgot this in between making a living and paying bills. If there’s one thing I would like to do this year, it is to hold on to the dream that started this company and this blog. To not lose sight. To be mindful of the dream of sharing significant life changing stories in everything I do.
Which leads me to share a bit more of the story of Friday night. When I meet a person from another country and culture, I always try to find out as much as I possibly can. What do they eat? What are their family traditions? What’s Christmas like in their home? What do they believe? Do they sing along to the songs we do? What are the things that connect us? What is the common ground?
So, in this interaction I learned that South Africa is kind of a special place. Now, there have been rumblings of people packing up and leaving for a while now. They have lost hope that our beloved country will ever recover or be restored, and set their sights on greener pastures. I have to be honest and say that I have had thoughts of packing up too… When you’re constantly bombarded with bad news, rumours of shutdown, ridiculous amounts of corruption, and a struggle to make ends meet because of a crashing economy, it’s completely normal to ask questions like “But what about our children?” and “How will it ever get better?”.
I think the critical thing to be prayerful about when your thoughts are clouded with exit strategies, is WHY? I have a firm belief in being planted with a purpose and provision - Whether it is in a certain country, church, school, company - There’s always a reason why you are where you are. It might not always feel like it, but just because you don’t feel it doesn’t make it less true. I think what I’m trying to say is that when you’re planning to uproot yourself out of fear, rather than purpose, you will never find a place to flourish. Jesus does the planting work… Not us.
Upon sharing pieces of our South African culture with this new American friend, I just fell in love with our country again. Our people are warm, inviting, storytellers. We have the ability to turn strangers into lifelong friends. We have the best food on the planet - I mean, who is not a fan of a truly South African "braai" complete with "braaibroodjies" and milk tart for desert. Our sense of humour is sometimes a bit dark, and sometimes just a bit too soon - but we have mastered the art of holding things lightly and finding the silver lining. South Africa has everything from mountains, to deserts, to bush veld, to gorgeous beaches and forests that will take your breath away. Beyond the surface South Africans have a depth and an understanding of going through tough times. We are compassionate… Well, most of us are when a taxi didn’t almost drive us off the road that day.
I think the main thing that gives me hope for the future of South Africa, and also that this year is going to be different, is the fact that I can see how God is working in and through our people. He remains the deepest common ground that connects our roots. He remains the strength in our weakness, and the One that makes our roots dig deeper and our branches reach higher and wider. He doesn’t just connect us as fellow South Africans, but also enables us to shine and share His light with the nations.
My prayer for 2020 is that South Africa will be a light to the nations. May our stories of reconciliation and restoration encourage and inspire people beyond our borders. May our eyes be open to see all the beauty God has prepared for us. May our hands be ready to reach out to those around us, and our feet ready to walk the extra mile. May we stop pointing out our differences and start celebrating them. May we always be ready to share in the Common Ground of God’s presence.