Loaded Silence

So, yet again, it’s been a while since I last wrote. This time I know exactly why. I’ve been in some serious denial about what’s coming. I starting writing this blog in my head almost two weeks ago. When it was exactly one month from the big D-day… the departure. That’s when it hit. I’m really leaving my home. I think I started crying somewhere a few kilometers on my drive up the coast towards town and kept it going on and off for the rest of the day. I know this is what God is telling me to do. I have a peace about the timing. The more time I spend orienting the couple here to replace me, the more giddy-happy it makes me that I’m leaving things in better hands than mine, that God has got this figured out. But I’m sad and heavy-hearted to leave this place. The beauty, can’t deny it. The people, gonna really miss them. The person I’ve become, well, I hope she gets packed to go.

I don’t know what’s ahead and I’m certain that this is making it harder to go. When I had all the “paradox of emotions” coming to South Africa, I had something to be excited about in the future as well as the sadness of leaving a life and family behind. And don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to being able to be closer to my family, but I don’t know what door is going to open and how long it is going to take to open. It’s a faith step to be sure. But it also makes it so much harder to let go here. I don’t have the right eloquent words to say about it. I’m going to miss this place, these people, my crazy life here and I’m sad about it.

And that’s where this blog was heading but procrastination and major tragedy happened and, well, blogging was the last thing on my mind. Violence and the worst of life is also part of living here. Some of the things that people endure, evil that is perpetrated on others is why there’s a need to bring light into this valley I call home. Last week, the child of the one of the workers in our ministry was murdered in a violent fashion. The shock of that child’s death and the knowledge of what his mother must be going through was heavy and sickening. But that, unfortunately, was just the beginning. In a community where there is never enough policing, a shocked, saddened, and fed up community decided to take matters into its own hands to clean up their streets. In the resulting days, more deaths have occurred, including another misidentified and innocent teen. Fires and fear took a few of the nights and, from the safety of my home, I could hear the tear gas thingys being fired as the wind was right to carry the sound my way. It makes me question so much. The same questions I’ve had since the beginning are still there. I feel so bad. Do I have the right to feel this way, when my hurt is nothing compared to hers? And the people who are so much closer to everything going on those nights? What my years here have taught me is that there’s not ever going to be a good answer to this question. As long as we live a world that is not the image of the kingdom of heaven those questions will remain. And that is tough to accept. But each of us has a hand to reach out and repair the part of the wall right in front of us to help.

So that’s been the environment of the last few weeks here. It’s been heavy but working through it all. I guess that’s why today sort of snuck up on me. It was my last day working in our recovery program and it was graduation day. Either I shed a tear or two or ugly cried at one point, you decide. But saying goodbye was tough. Sitting there, realizing I’m not going to be here, going to be doing this again, the water works turned on. I may have only been there two days a week, but, more than anything, that placed opened my eyes and my heart. I’m sure if you spoke to my old colleagues in the hospital about how I was a basket case when confronted with the fact that I would no longer be working with addicts they’d laugh at you. But that is what happened. Those addicts…they aren’t addicts to me anymore. They’re people, people who have made bad (really bad) choices. People who have been hurt. And yes they frustrate me, they lie to me, they definitely try to manipulate me, but they also grow, change, and meet Christ. They become, or start to become, the person God intended them to be. Today I watched three women mark that they have been able to change their paths in life. I’ve watched them start to believe in themselves and overcome adversity, often adversity I forced upon them. Hey, that is (was) my role to play. And they persevered. And in those moments, watching them make their marks, sitting with my co-workers who pour in so much of themselves into the program, it’s real. You’re leaving. God has called you onwards.

So you sit and can’t decide. Is it wonderful awfulness or awful wonderfulness-this thing that God has allowed me to be a part? All of it. The good, the bad, the really ugly. The frustrating client, the terminal patients, the friendships, the family, every last piece of it. I’m so happy to have been privileged to have these memories and so sad that I won’t get to make more. I’m confident in the God-timing of my leaving, uncertain of what is to lay ahead. Just a complete paradox of emotion and guaranteed to be a basket case for at least the next few weeks here. …. And don’t even get me started about packing. I’m STILL in denial about that one.

2 Responses to “Loaded Silence”

  1. Karen says:

    Julie,
    May God give you all that you need as you make this transition. Only He knows where you are headed but look how He has changed you and prepared you for more amazing work. God bless!

  2. Jennifer Pence says:

    Julie,
    I am so happy to know you and to hear about all your experiences these last few years. I am a bit misty eyed myself, as you did a great job expressing your feelings and thoughts in this post. Thank you for taking us on your journey and for being the hands and feet of Christ for the time you have been called there. I pray for your next few weeks and ask that God would continue to reveal His direction and purpose for you every single day.

    Jennifer

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