A Year Ago It Was Starting

A year ago Friday, I woke up in South Africa. Our house was on the beach near a town called Fish Hoek (that's not where we were, but it was down the road.) I woke up in the morning and smelled the water, listened to waves as I went to sleep, and the wind that is ever-present in South Africa's summer season. A year ago today, everything was starting.

I wrote at the end of day one: It’s a miracle that I even got to come here.

And it was. I mentioned that I didn't like where I was as an intern, but had I been anywhere else I never would've gotten to go. See, I only had half the trip paid for. I still had to pay about $1,600. I didn't have it, but they let me go anyway. Not many places would allow you to go on a trip that you hadn't paid for. If I had been anywhere else I would never have gone.

I also wrote this: I’ve been here less than 24 hours and I know that something big is happening around me.

We say things flippantly, not really gathering the full weight of the words. I'm pretty positive this was one of those moments. Before I went on the trip, people kept telling me not to waste it. I never planned to, but I didn't know what to expect. Yet I expected so many things. I expected to come back knowing my passions are A, B and C. I wanted to be able to say THIS (whatever A, B or C was) is my life calling, my purpose. I expected answers. But even in that expectation, I didn't know what that would be. It was a flippant expectation--and one that as I look back I spent so much time looking for--that I missed a lot of small things.

On day one, we got to explore the organization we were there to serve alongside. It's called Living Hope and they change lives. Completely transform lives. It's the embodiment of what it looks like to see a need and meet it. It’s something that you hear all about and so rarely see put into action. Living Hope is a ministry that gives people who have HIV/AIDS a chance to fully live by offering free health services and teaching life skills to people who just need to make money to survive.

There's another branch that serves the homeless (called Living Grace) by giving them a place to store their belongings, beds and meals. Living Works teaches those who come out of poor townships how to survive. There's even a group of people called Life Skills Educators who "sponsors" children and youth across townships and teach them. (I'll talk more about that later.)

But on day one, we got a small glimpse of Living Works at the Educare Center--a place where all the kids (usually of those involved in Living Works) who can't afford school go--that's set in the heart of a township called Masiphumelele. (That's pronounced like mas-e-pooh-ma-lay-lee, which I only add because I’m one of those people who would keep trying to figure it out). Masi is one major township that Living Hope serves in. When we walked into their classroom today, they were learning how to brush their teeth. Crazy, huh?

For me, even a year later, what they do is so amazing. I used to be that person who didn't know what I wanted out of life because I loved so many things. Homelessness and HIV/AIDS movements being two of them. Children being another, though a year ago that was still pretty minute (aka denial) in my head, almost nothing. In ONE DAY I found a place that served all my passions. All of them. It made me realize that maybe, just maybe, they could all work together somehow. Even as I reflect and write this I get chills. Why can't we do this in America--have one places that serves every need in our community? The things that would change...

A year ago today, it was starting. Those moments of life-change that are so small you can't even see them until it's a year later. I know I still can't. It's crazy how we do things without thinking--and how those things completely wreck our lives. That's not always a bad thing. It wasn't for me.

If you want to follow the team that's there now, you can do it here.

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