My sister sent me an email this week. In one line, she summed up my experience here perfectly: “I know you've had some serious ups and downs, but I'm glad you've had the chance to be there.” This has been one of the most difficult periods of my life; almost everything I thought I knew about who I am and who I am to be has been dismantled, altered, and has been or is being rebuilt in a new and better way. I have shared some of those experiences with you all. Identity is constructed every day, with every decision, but I believe I am through the storm of it now. I see a clear horizon; perfect blue stretching forever over an ocean that will carry me to places more wonderful than I have yet imagined. I feel free. I feel like I've just broken through the surface after being underwater for a very long time, or like I have awoken after a dream of toil. I feel as though I have woken to the company of friends after being ill and unconscious for days. “In the morn, those angel faces smile which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.” ('Lead Kindly Light,” Hymns no. 97)
I saw a movie on Mormon Messages that was exactly right. I can't post the link here – it's posted on my Facebook page – but I can post this link to the text from which the movie is taken, http://bit.ly/9lZUYI The section about the young father is the part that touched me. Based on my experiences here, and on the great love Heavenly Father has shown me in this time, I do believe in good things to come. I am looking forward to this next year, and to the rest of my life. I don't feel anxiety or stress about it anymore. My heart feels free. My soul is at peace; I feel, I believe I can take joy in the journey, in this sojourn on earth. I feel I can trust God and do what He asks me to do. The hymns of Zion (Thank you, Pres. Brenchley! It has been a great blessing to have my MTC choir director as my Stake President at BYU.) have been instrumental (pardon the pun) in this process of change, of repentance, of forming a new view of myself, of God, and of the world. I could not have come through this process without them, and without the truth and Spirit of God they bring.
I realized today as well – my study has blessed me to have a three month period of change filled with good people, people who love God and serve Him. The Lord has put wonderful people in my life here; everyone from my roommate Brandon to the youth I work with in churches: my life for these three months of vulnerability has been filled with good, even wonderful people. “I feel my Savior's love in all the world around me! His Spirit fills my soul...” “For the joy of human love – brother, sister, parent, child; friends on earth and friends above … Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise!” (“I Feel My Savior's Love,” Children's Songbook no. 74; “For the Beauty of the Earth,” Hymns no. 92)
My youth and advisors - Bro. Shawn, and everyone. I love these guys - working ith the young men has been one of the highlights of my time here.
I was invited to help chaperone/run a young men, young women's conference in Mdantsane. After hearing a lesson about the fortresses Moroni erected around Nephite cities, the youth had an activity where they built symbolic "spiritual fortresses" with marshmallows and spaghetti. It was pretty fun!
Some of the designs were simple; others quite sophisticated.
Most didn't pass the hymnal test: can the spiritual structure support the weight of a hymnal?
One or two, however, stood up against two. I guess it just goes to show that... well, actually, I'm having a hard time drawing a lesson from this. Perhaps that it's how we use what we're given, not what we're given, that makes the difference.
Here is Collin, my hostess' brother, giving a speech at his 60th birthday party. Most of the speeches were in Afrikaans, so Brandon and I just kind of smiled and nodded our heads when everyone laughed at jokes. This was a fun party though- despite my lingering cold, I got out and danced on the dance floor. Brandon posted pictures of me dancing with an 80 year old woman, who motioned for me to dance with her. She was amazingly spry, actually.
This was the wharf on the Buffalo River? right outside the venue where Collin's party was held. The lights were very beautiful; a misty rain was falling, producing a wonderful effect I didn't quite capture here. If anyone has technical photographic acumen, please send me some tips on how to capture this type of picture. Or, for that matter, on how to get good shots indoors - my indoor shots invariably come out grainy or blurry.
Here are two of the youth from Amalinda Baptist Church.
And here's the rest of the crew! These guys have all been great - super helpful, friendly, and welcoming. I've loved spending time with them.
Oi - next week is my last post from Africa. See you then!