I found the Lion in the healings that took place as we said simple prayers of faith wherever we went. For me, personally, it was the first time someone's ear opened after I prayed for them. It was so casual, too: "Jesus, we release healing to her ear in your name, come and open the ear now," I prayed. "Do you feel anything?" "Yes, it's opened. I can hear out of it now," she said. No exclamation. No surprise. Just a smile as wide as her ears. "You can? Oh my goodness!" I cried. "Praise the Lord!" And she praised the Lord, too, then got so happy - the kind of delirious joy that makes you laugh and sway. We just happily praised God in that moment for what He does. All smiles.
There were many healings and salvations just like that throughout our trip, and countless people were encouraged and strengthened by our pouring out of love and individual ministry. It's a wonder how many people just need to hear that God knows them and loves them. Even people in the church.
The Lion was perhaps a bit more discreet at times. Our second night in South Africa, my world was turned upside down. That was the first time we went to a township, which is where the poorest of the poor live. It's literary thousands of shacks for homes lined up on top of each other with dirt roads in between. We met up with a pastor who has a church in the middle of it, and he took us through narrow alleyways and dirt pathways to the place they pitch their tent to have church. As we walked along, hoards of children - barefoot and smiling - came and grabbed our hands to walk with us, ready to follow us wherever. Some as young as 2 or 3 walked with us. I had no idea where their parents were. Somewhere nearby, I supposed, but that is life there. I was seen throughout our trip with a nice camera around my neck, courtesy of one of my teammates who let me use it to photograph our journey, but it was suggested that I not bring it here. We captured some moments on our iPhones, but I wish I was more aware of what to take shots of that night. I was more inwardly processing as it was my first time being in such a place - a real third world type environment in the midst of a first world country, which blew my mind. My friend Ciani noticed I was one of the only ones not holding the hand of a child as we walked through, and she encouraged one of them to take my hand. I gladly accepted the little one, but I was just undone. I began to see the Lion more clearly as we got back to where we had parked our van. A team from the church had brought their sound system and keyboard, and we were led in a time of true South African worship - fast paced and fun.
That guy on the keyboard wasn't holding back, huh? From there, we spoke the message of God's love, and we saw people healed and saved that night. When some of the men asked for prayer, it was for a job. I guess anyone anywhere wants to get out of poverty. Knowing I was only there to bring a bit of joy was hard, because as the sun set, we couldn't stay. For our safety, they said, we needed to get out of there before dark. But those children were left there. What of their safety? I shuddered to think that bad things happen there at night. But I had to move on. I knew on a trip like ours, we wouldn't be rescuing anyone out of that life. But we shed light on the ultimate Savior, and I believe the Lion waits there and shows himself to those who will see.
I saw an actual lion (and lioness) on safari halfway through our trip at Pilanesburg National Park. It was a lifelong dream to go on safari (although I'll have to go again since I experienced this one without my husband). We also saw giraffe, zebras, an elephant, hippo, warthogs, black rhino, wildebeest, springbok, kudu, interesting birds, and monkeys. We slept in a "tent" on a concrete slab with a bed, refrigerator, and tea kettle in it, but we were out in the wild. On the way back from the bath house once, we saw a zebra and countless springbok just hanging out. I kept waiting for Timon and Pumbaa to come and sing to me. Although, we think Rafiki visited one of the guy's tents overnight hitting the side of it and making noises! These were certainly memories I'll cherish with my team. A huge storm rolled in the night we arrived at the park. By the time we hit the sack, huge thunder and lightning strikes sang us to sleep. But Ciani and I were awake chatting about life and love and God and BAM! A thunderclap seemed to hit right over us. "Wanna push our beds together?" she asked. "Yes!" I replied. Even grown women get a fright in the middle of the South African wild at night!
A safari sunrise:
I'll post the other safari photos in an album.
The last thing I'll share about my experience in South Africa is the personal breakthrough I received in going on a trip without my husband. The first thing to note is that it will never need to happen again! We missed each other so much, but we both received revelation about our union as we ministered separately. For me, when it comes to ministry or stepping out in faith, I have often hid behind David. I put myself in his shadow in the name of godly submission. Never did he ever put himself over me, but I would gladly choose to see Him be the one to do or be in front. I've done my fair share of ministry, don't get me wrong, in our youth ministry or when we were house parents, but I knew in my heart, that I had come to a place of settling in my heart: if it was David who saw big and amazing things happen for God then no need for me to go after them, because I'd get the side effect anyway. Part of my whole journey at BSSM has been to rid myself of this sort of thinking.
But I found the Lion once more within myself, his roar a little more ferocious this time than ever before. I saw myself show up and be powerful on this trip to South Africa. I saw what I can bring to my marriage and our ministry together. There's no more need to hide! I've got everything it takes to be a Kingdom-bringer, too. David is thrilled I've caught sight of this new confidence, because it's only going to empower him all the more as well. In short, my faith has risen to a more equal playing field with my husband's. I can't wait to see how much fun we have from here.
I thank South Africa for all it brought to me - the new experience, culture, and self-confidence. In many ways, I found home there, a place I know I could belong. But that's always the case these days. Each new place the Lord takes me to, I see His heart for that place, and I fall in love.
I reserve a special thanks to those who supported me in this journey through donations and prayers. As I've said before, I was completely overwhelmed by the financial support raised. Back in November, I really wasn't sure I'd be on this trip, but when it came down to it, the money came through. What a blessing to know so many people wanted me on this journey as much as I wanted to be. Thank you, God - it is all because of You!