When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, you understand now why you came this way. – Crosby, Stills and Nash.
As we stood on our balcony in Cape Town, my husband pointed out the Southern Cross in the dark African sky. A wave of emotion took me by surprise as I gazed at those four stars. Maybe it was because – as the song goes – it was my first time to see this constellation, which is not visible from most of the northern hemisphere. Or perhaps it was because it brought back fond memories of listening to the song, one of my favorites, from so many years ago. Mostly, I think it was because I have been struggling and searching for a reason as to why we are now living in Africa, a place I never thought I would visit, let alone move to. After living here for six months, I am still in a state of disbelief.
Of course, the obvious reason we are here is for my husband’s job. But, the bigger question for me is: why was this opportunity placed in our path? For those of you who have read my blogs thus far, it may appear that we moved here only to go on vacation. Some of you have said you don’t think my husband works at all! While it is true that we have seen some beautiful places, day to day living in Luanda is anything but beautiful. Moving here to go on great vacations is really doing things the hard way. You don’t buy a cow to get a glass of milk. And Luanda is a real pain-in-the-ass cow. This is considered a “hardship” location for many reasons: it’s dirty, dangerous, smelly, ridiculously expensive and the work is difficult and frustrating. We would have to be daft to move here just to go on exotic vacations.
Of course, there is the monetary aspect of an Angolan posting. We are provided a nice “uplift” for living here. But for me, that is not enough to move to a place like this, thousands of miles from family, friends, and all that is familiar. Money is nice, don’t get me wrong, but money is cold comfort when you can’t walk two blocks for fear of being mugged, or spend days with a belly ache because you trusted food you shouldn’t have. So, if it was not for the vacations and not for the money, why did we move here?
I believe that God – and not my husband’s company – put us here for a reason. Now, my ego is not so inflated as to believe that I am here to change the world. I’m not a change-the-world kind of gal. I’m quiet and fairly shy and more than a little lazy. God has his work cut out for Him just getting me out of bed in the morning and out the door. But, I do believe He had a reason for putting us here. That reason, although still cloudy, is beginning to take shape.
Strangely, I turn to Hollywood to make my point, by way of the movie Yes Man, with Jim Carrey. For those of you who have not seen it, Jim Carrey’s character learns through a series of crazy events, that when we say “yes” to opportunities – especially if they exist far outside of our warm and fuzzy comfort zone – the result is something amazing and completely unexpected. Although the movie never references anything other than a cosmic, karma-esque reason for this, the point is clear: it’s not life that gets us, it’s our reaction to it.
Back in Texas, we attended a church for many years that we really enjoyed. Through that church and also through our neighborhood, I had participated in a number of bible studies through the years, but I had never taken part in a study by Beth Moore. I had heard much about the energetic Mrs. Moore, and had always wanted to do one of her studies, but had never accepted any of the opportunities that presented themselves – and there were many. I was saying “No” and not saying “Yes”. If you have never heard of Beth, take a moment to look her up on YouTube. That tiny Texas dynamo could motivate anyone. Less than a week after moving here, one of the lovely angels who lives in my building invited me to come to her bible study class. Imagine my surprise to learn they were doing a Beth Moore study!
Let me tell you, I was not disappointed. Full of piss and vinegar (as my dad used to say), Beth seemed to cut straight through all of the religious fog to reveal an undeniable point: all of us are put here to serve God’s purposes. If we will only be still for a moment, open our hearts and listen, He will reveal what that is for us. It may have taken a move to Africa for me to finally join a fellow Texan’s bible study, but now I see it. Yes is good. Yes leads to good things happening in your life.
While it is great that I have benefitted spiritually by this move, surely that is not the only reason I am here. God calls us to help others, and there is so much need here – really so much that it can be overwhelming. What can one person do? Take a first step and then see where it leads, that is all any of us can do. Through the lovely ladies I met in my bible study, I decided to help teach English at a local orphanage. This activity takes me far outside of my comfort zone, so saying “yes” to this was a little tougher than it was to the bible study. You see, I’ve got a very soft heart and it gets broken easily. I’ve done loads of volunteer work over the years, but have generally avoided dealing directly with kids in difficult situations. I just can’t take it. An orphanage here is a surefire heart-breaker. The depth of poverty in Angola is something most people in the western world will never see. I will be shedding tears – buckets of them – at the plight of these kids. But there is a reason I was given this opportunity and so I said “yes”. Maybe one of these kids will be helped in some small way by my participation. If so, then it will be worth every tear.
My purpose in writing this blog is not to toot my own horn. Considering the amount of need here, teaching a class is a tiny drop in the bucket. My purpose is just to encourage others to say yes the next time an opportunity knocks on the door. Especially if the first instinct is to say no. Just trust that by embracing the opportunities that appear, good things will be the result, even though they may not be visible directly.
The lovely angel who invited me to her bible study left Luanda several months ago. Her husband had been suffering from a nasty cough for almost a year, and during a trip home to the U.S., doctors discovered that it was cancer. They have remained in the U.S. until his treatment is complete. Ever cheerful, they inspire others merely by being examples of the willing servants God wants us to be. Even while dealing with a very sick husband, she had made the effort to reach out to me, a newcomer, and had a huge impact on my life as a result. She doesn’t know what she set in motion with the simple act of inviting me to her bible study, just as I may never know how my actions will impact others after I leave. In the meantime, I will do my best to make those interactions positive, and then trust God to create the good that comes next.
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