The Sweetest Birthday Gift

Challenge & Revelation, Life updates, Missions, Photography

I wake up to my favorite girls surrounding me, singing happy birthday with a plate of eggs, cinnamon pull apart bread, along with coffee made just the way I like it. I spent an hour in the Word and dressed for the day, doing my hair and make-up all in enough time to be out the door at 8:30. It was the last day of Holiday Kid’s Club (VBS) at Impact Kids and I helped run it with a few of the other interns. I was exhausted by lunch and the day wasn’t even half over! Rich and Michelle Franzen (founders of Impact Africa) surprised me with a triple chocolate mini-cake and all the kids sang happy birthday to me, I felt so special.

But that wasn’t all God had planned for my birthday.

That afternoon we visited a children’s hospital. What I saw was gut wrenching, jaw dropping, and tear spurring.

Row after row of cribs resembling cages full of children connected to oxygen tubes, many with stitches on their head and broken legs. While in America we would elevate your leg, South Africa is drastically different. With the kids here a bracket is screwed into each child’s knee to keep it elevated, restraining them from most movements a child would want to make. The extra crib piece on top holds the leg elevated but restrains from a parent reaching to hug their child, only a hand can be held. As we gave them simple toys and gifts their entire face lit up like Christmas morning for many of your children (or sometimes how you feel yourselves.)

Children's Hospital

These photos barely scratch the surface of how I felt that day. I hope they move you as much as they moved me to take them.

My favorite part of the day, though, was meeting a little boy whose name is so long and mispronounceable I will simply name him Samuel. This little boy looked at me with the biggest droopiest brown eyes, moaning as he breathed. I stuck my hand through the crib and rather than grabbing my finger, he clutched onto my arm. I couldn’t leave this little one, this was the reason I was here. I approached a nurse and asked her if I could hold him, she quickly replied, “Of course!” I turned around and picked this little boy up, his eyes lit with hope. I held him close to me and his arms wrapped around mine, I’d never felt a clutch so strong from someone so young before. He reached up and stroked my neck and his eyes began to droop. How long had it been since this little one had been held? Before we left I fed him, the other nurses tried unsuccessfully and nodded for me to try. I picked up the spoon, scooped up the food just the same as them and Samuel opened his mouth, willing to receive from a loving hand. Having the opportunity to pray over Samuel’s life and speak into it was the best birthday present I could ever have received. I know that this little one’s life was changed, but so was mine.

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Celebration in South Africa!

Life updates, Photography

Last weekend one of the girls, Alexa, turned 19! Her favorite color is pink so we went all out and bought heart shaped candles and made her breakfast, just spoiling her to show how much we appreciate her. One of the girls made her a flower crown {which she absolutely loved}.

Birthday Girl Spot!

As the festivities continued we played volleyball and jumped on the trampoline – a normal weekend as interns. A few nights before, we had a rough storm where a tree was struck by lightning and mud was washed into the pool in our backyard. What once was blue and clean, was now grimy and brown. We joked with Alexa about a “refreshing mud bath” and she laughed.

Everyone started to head inside to cool down for a bit and she unconsciously walked beside the deep end of the pool. With one timely push, she splashed into the pool. {those of you who know me understand I like to joke around.} She squealed and squinted her eyes at me. I ran, knowing what she was thinking. Only she didn’t run after me. The guys did! It was my turn to shriek, running as fast as I could around our yard with just enough of a distance they couldn’t grab me and throw me into the pool, too.They finally stopped chasing me and I collapsed on the ground to catch my breath. Sneaking up on me, they grabbed my arms and legs, dragging me towards the pool. I yelled, tugged, and fought until they stopped and asked, “Alright. Do you really not want to be thrown into the pool?” I didn’t answer fast enough so they picked me up once again while I continued to yell. Alexa ran up and told them it was alright, providing grace rather than seeking revenge.

The next day we were out in the squatter camps for ministry and by the time we arrived home, it was pouring rain. Cori and I looked at each other and ran to jump on the trampoline. We laughed and danced in the rain, enjoying God’s peacefulness after an exhausting day under the sun and out on ministry. As we headed back to the house, Alexa yelled for Cori to watch meand make sure I didn’t shove her in the pool, and if I did to pull me along with. “I don’t care! I’m wearing a swimsuit so I won’t get wet!” I yell back, boldly and arrogantly, confident no one was strong enough to push me into the pool. Just as I come around the tree I see one of the guys on our deck fixing the grill so we can make dinner. “What was that?” He says and I quickly bite my tongue, “Nothing!” I reply. Like a bullet he shoots after me, focused on throwing me into the pool. I run but can only avoid him for so long. He picks me up as I yell, only I know the inevitable is about to take place. I make one last attempt to twist out of his grip and SPLASH! I’m in the pool. I swim to the surface and open my eyes to see the biggest grin on his face. I knew it was going to happen, but I certainly did not expect it to happen today.

As I was sitting in my towel, drying from the escapade the Lord reminded me of a verse. Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.” While the situation is funny, the Lord reminded me of how arrogant we can be in our faith sometimes. It will come through, God will take care of it. He’ll shut the door if I’m not supposed to do it. We were never meant to sit in our lazy boy recliners and wait for God to bring us what He wants for us like a butler. He works through our faith and steps of action. It may not be easy to make that decision, but when you know it’s of God and you trust the Father will provide for you, it is so much easier than fighting it till you’re blue in the face. My three weeks here in South Africa has honestly been the best time of my life. God has taught me so much, opened my eyes to so many things, and moved through me in ways I never expected. Cannot wait to share so many more stories with you and tell you so much more about South Africa and my time spent here!