South Africa 2016

What a beautiful trip this was... God did such a work through the entire experience to show me just how perfect His ways are over mine.  
After returning home from Nicaragua, I knew that I wanted to go on another trip as soon as possible.  I began planning a mission trip to Uganda with my good friend, Ashleigh.  I was all about Uganda.  I had never been there, and yet I adored it and poured months into fundraising and planning for a six week trip to Amani Baby Cottage.  
Then God told me clearly and simply that the door was going to close for the Uganda trip.  Months later, it did.  I was heartbroken, and wept over the lost trip like I had never cried before. 
Yet God's ways are good, and perfect.  Another plan was set in motion, and I believe that this was what God had in mind the entire time.  
The Uganda trip fell through on Christmas Eve, 2015.  Several days after Christmas, we set up a Skype call with long-time friends Eric and Mimi McMillian, who were serving as missionaries in South Africa.  As thankful as I was to have to opportunity to go and serve, my heart was still a bit remorseful that I would not be going to Uganda.  
Eventually, however, I gratefully accepted the opportunity to go to South Africa, and surrendered Uganda to God as much as His grace would allow me to.  Over the months ahead, I dreamed endlessly about the trip ahead of me.  My very good friend, Michaela, was planning to go with me, and we spent many hours working on fundraising and planning for SA.  Very sadly, the trip fell through for her, just as the Uganda trip had fallen through for me.  Yet I watched in amazement as she continued to trust that God's plan for her was best and this, too, was in His hands.  She inspired me, and I am continually thankful for our friendship and what she has taught me about unconditional trust in God.
The last couple of months of school felt both excruciatingly slow, yet sometimes a whirlwind of business.  Graduation was Friday evening on May 27th, and I was a marshall in the in ceremony.  
36 hours later, I was at the airport preparing to fly to Africa - by myself.  

The next 5 1/2 weeks were some of the most wonderful and eye opening that I have ever experienced.   God showed up in a big way and taught me specific truths and lessons about life and Himself that influence my life and my desire to minister to others.  

My time spent in South Africa was divided in to 3 sections - working at the preschool, helping with administration, and visiting with people/hosting Bible studies/ doing life together/ etc.  
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I was at the preschool - or creshe as we call it - sunrise to sunset.  The days were long and exhausting, but I love them.  The teachers at the creshe quickly became family, and I love them like aunts.  
There were about 23 kids at the creshe, and I quickly learned many lessons about what to do and not to do.  For example, before picking up a sweet two-year-old for a piggyback ride, ask yourself if you are prepared to give all 23 children - some not so small - a ride as well :).  
Yes, those days were good.  The children were so full of life and personality, and each one made me smile in a way all his or her own.  
One particularly adorable little boy quickly proved himself to be a gentlemen, even if it was at other children's expense.  One morning, I squatted on the flour to help a little on put his shoes on.  Immediately, Maleema was tugging at my sleeve, telling little boy to get out of his chair, and pointing for me to go sit in it!  A gentleman at 2.5 years old - how great is that?! 
Mesaho was the sweetest, most beautiful six-year-old I have ever met.  She had a mothering personality and was always caring for the younger children and giving them instructions.  Her smile was so beautiful, and it matched her personality perfectly.
Pope was a little gymnast.  The little guy was also only 2.5, but had incredible upper-body strength.  He was stubborn and defiant sometimes, but channeled in the right direction, those qualities will take him far.  
Andeswa was a slender, five-year-old with short, curly brown hair that was always dusty, and a little heart that yearned for love.  The more I got to know the little girl, the more my heart went out to her.  She was loud and assertive on the outside, but I looked in her eyes and held her tight in my arms and knew that she was hurting in ways that I could never completely understand.  She was first to push other kids out of my lap and plot down there herself, and she was first to grab my hand and hold onto it with a death grip when other children would come near.  But, oh, as time went on and I saw just how much she needed love, I wanted badly to be that for her for the time I had left.
Cupano was just 2 years old and a hefty little guy!  My first full day at the preschool was his too, and the teachers told me right away, "He doesn't cry - he is doing fine."  And they were right.  He didn't cry, he just kept a hard stare and scowl on his face.  I remember the first time I saw him smile and how wonderful that was.  He wouldn't smile often, and never talked to anyone but his six-year-old sister, Didente.  When he was around her, he would whisper quietly into her ear and she would take care of him.  What sweetness.  

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