…and went to visit South Africa. (I was told to have a catchy title…did that work? Anyway…since you’re here, read on!)
Oh South Africa. There is much work to be done. But you are so worth it.
It’s been a few weeks since I’ve returned from my trip, and I must say that I have been changed much more than I expected or imagined (and this ain’t my first rodeo.)
First of all, during my 21 hours of flight time and I had several visions dancing in my head of bringing four little children along for this ride–yikes. The original plan was for Heather to join me on this trip and it was with great sacrifice (and sadness) that she was forced to stay behind and trust me in a huge way. My time was going to be focused and I did not want to leave this country with regrets of not seeing the right things, asking the right questions, and meeting the right people. As I write this, it weighs heavily on me that I am ultimately responsible for six people in this journey!
I spent my first few days getting the lay of the land and learning how to not make myself a target for the crime that is so prevalent there–something to consider when moving a family. While I was there, I wanted to experience as much of the culture as I could, so I took quite a few risks (like traveling alone) even if I had to give up what I had on me. I was told to keep at least a few rand in my pocket as coming up empty handed during a holdup may cause unwanted aggravation that could escalate the situation. Public transportation was an adventure and even though my pasty white skin stuck out like a Elmer’s glue stick in a box of brown markers, it was so great to be amongst such beautiful array of people, tribes, and ethnicities. It doesn’t take long, however, to see the desperation and hopelessness in some people’s eyes. I’ve seen homelessness and poverty in several parts of the world first hand, but this was different.
Even during that time, God put the right people in seats next to me and I was able to haveÂ some conversations and get to know some incrediblyÂ friendly and admirable South Africans. Don’t think I didn’t have any fun as I was able to experience some of the nicer areas and see a few things that are hard to find in the states (yep, they’re real):
After enjoying a bit of time getting to know the area, it was off for my marathon of meetings. I first had the honor of meeting with the YWAM Muizenberg leadership and learn more about how they operate. I was so impressed to see how this team of over 200 staff members are planted all over the area and are actively impacting South Africa in so many crazy and faithful ways. They were so welcoming and I can’t say enough about how they took the time to hear some of our story, ask questions, and speak words of encouragement all along the way. Even though they had plenty of going on, they made time to include me in EVERYTHING and made room for me to feel a part of their family. I was even able to get quite the history lesson on the indigenous tribes of South Africa, how some languages got those rocking “click” sounds (see below), and the struggle to sort things out (like the Constitution and land ownership) after apartheid. I am confident that the people of YWAM Muizenberg are pushing hard against the darkness that often looms over this nation.
Along with all this good stuff, the director of YWAM Muizenberg rocked a sweet afro AND they know how to party:
Check out a bit about YWAM Muizenberg HERE.
Later in the week, I was able to connect with Hope Africa Collective, a super-charged community development ministry that really has their act together and is committed to doing the research, asking the hard questions, and measuring their efforts to make sure they are doing what will TRULY make a difference in pulling individuals out of poverty and changing the community from the inside out. They sponsor young adults and train them in the appropriate skills (computer, financial, health/nutrition, and much more) to give them the tools to get the right kind of job that can change the course of their lives. We spoke in great detail about how our family’s background in health and nutrition could really be a great fit with my medical background and Sy’s journey. What what!
While there, I was able to meet people who have risen up from the ashes of poverty and are charting new directions for their lives, families, and community. This VIDEO tells aÂ story better than I ever could. Take a few minutes and watch how HAC is making a huge difference there.
While I often hear about some ministries empowering the locals, I was able to see it first hand and watch these people live out a faith that could teach us a thing or two…or ten thousand. These people have seen things, experienced things, and lost things that no person ever should. I know we only have ourselves to give, but if it means one less broken heart, it’s worth it. You can check out Hope Africa Collective’s website HERE.
I am so thankful for the time these folks took (and are still taking) to help me find God’s direction for our family in South Africa. Much to get excited for and pray about!
(With the picture above, I have to mention that I saw it and never felt safe enough to whip my phone out to snap it. Finally, one day, while acting like some sort of idiot ninja in the middle of the day, I finally got it. God really spoke through these words!)
(Sorry, I wish I had a few more pics of the townships, but walking around with a smartphone and snapping pictures isn’t advised. Plus, there’s just the respect issue of taking random pics of people’s homes.)
After my time in the Cape Town area, God brought me to the YWAM Worcester campus to talk more about the incredible Primary Health Care school they run there and for God to blow my mind again. I was able to meet the Director of the program, Hilaire, and talk about possible fits for my skill set there. As he began unfolding his story about coming out of poverty in Cameroon, experiencing the effects of death and disease firsthand, and then dedicating himself to serve the poor through health care was enough to move anyone to tears. Just standing next to this guy makes me take a hard look at myself and if I’m really dedicated to what Jesus said. If you need a taste of what this school does, take a look at the link below and be ready. Even as a paramedic, it makes me think about my willingness to deal with scabies and lice to this degree. I’ve handled my fair share of blood, vomit, feces, and internal organs, but bugs and parasites strike quite a special chord with me. Regardless, Heather and I were made with hands to carry out this kind of work. Click HERE for the video (heads up: nursing mom cameoÂ in there.)
Another bonus was that I connected with our short-term outreach team from YWAM Orlando and spent some time seeing familiar faces and encouraging the leadership team there. Such a blessing to be with these peeps and hear the great things they are doing.
This team also blessed me by allowing me to accompany them to a local school where gang members wait outside the gates every day to pull kids into lives that break and end lives. Our team was sharing some love through some amazing dancing (the school kids went nuts when our “lighter colored” team busted out some African moves) and some powerful testimonies that related to what many of these South African kids deal with on a daily basis. We were also able to powerfully pray for the leaders who are in these schools and striving to shield these kids from the grasp of a powerful enemy with the power of the Gospel.
The rest of my time in South Africa was spent looking at more housing and seeing exactly what our family may be walking into (heavy gates, walls, sharp metal, barbed wire and the like.) But the one thing I thought would be somewhat of a struggle was answered HUGELY by God. He totally knocked my socks off as I found all that we would need for Sy and his therapy–at better prices than we are paying in the states! In fact, I walked into one store and was running around in excitement, snapping photos, and almost hugging every employee that was stocking the shelves. I think I came pretty close to being escorted out…
Since a quality and stable home life is paramount, we’ve been talking A LOTÂ about the culture shock we would be experiencing as our kids would go from wandering a 200 acre property to being within barbed-wired walls and never leaving our sight. It’s really hard to explain the thoughts that go through my mind as I seek what the Lord would have for us, but in the end, I go back to what caused us to take the first step of this journey: I have millions of reasons not to do it, but it only takes one from God to walk in obedience. Please pray for us!
I can’t tell you how much I fell in love with these people and the beautiful country in which they reside. It would be so easy to throw our family on a plane and trust God to fill in the gaps we see and don’t see, but we’ve been around the block enough to know that we need to be seeking God on every step we take: every Skype meeting, evaluating each family member and their needs, every gift that we’ve been blessed with to give away, and so on…
I will say that the flight back brought a lot of sadness to leave and a much stronger bond to this land than I even anticipated…thank you to all who are making this possible!
So what’s up now?
We are continuing to connect with people in the U.S. and in South Africa about next steps and what those would look like. We would rather have too much information than too little. We will continue to keep you updated, but just know that after years of training, we feel that God is ready to release our family to start using the gifts He placed in us in a whole new and big way.
As with almost every missionary, it takes partnership to make ministry like this happen. No matter where God takes us next, we will be engaging in gathering the resources our family needs to keep going and we could use your prayers, the sharing of our story with your friends and colleagues, and considering joining our team (click HERE to partner with us.) Thank you for all of you who are standing with our family as we are walking this unconventional road and leaning on Him for wisdom and understanding. As we continue to take steps, it’s fun to look back to see how far we’ve come.
Bring on what’s next.
Always In Love,
The Harger Fam*
BONUS MATERIAL (aka, this probably means nothing to you, but was fun for us):
Love Buses are available! History repeating itself?