My ideas for post-graduation all sounded good- like they could quite possibly be God’s plans. I considered moving to the Philippines to teach in a school for missionary kids; I pondered moving back to Seattle and investing in the community there; I thought about staying at ASU and doing campus ministry; I wondered about doing any number of other things around the world.
As I looked around, it seemed that there was no where without great need, and no where were there what I could see as enough laborers for the harvest.
The good thing about the great need is that it kept me from being need-driven in my decision. I knew that I was not one with enough knowledge and wisdom about the situation of the world to decide where the need was greatest. (I did try to figure that out for awhile, though. I’m a slow learner. :)) The months of wondering also clarified my developing belief that the where wasn’t the most important factor. People need Jesus, and they need Him here, there, and everywhere.
In the meantime, the opportunity to go to South Africa with 15 other students to work in villages with kids orphaned by AIDS arose. The AIDS pandemic had always seemed overwhelmingly immense, and I had a hard time wrapping my head around the numbers of people both dead and orphaned. Once again, the form and function of the trip was different than any other I had experienced.
We spent a lot of time in villages, playing games with the kids. Vacation Bible School was well-planned, but plans were scrapped as often as they were followed (Imagine the improvised versions of the fall in the garden and the prodigal son acted out in the middle of a field.) We visited hard places: the local cemetery that outgrew its fences and overflowed into the road, the clinic filled with too many women and children to possibly be seen, the home of a woman who died from AIDS a week after we met her and prayed with her, and more. We met amazing men and women who live their lives to serve in a way rarely seen in the US. We learned about how years of dysfunction and the effects of sin affect a government and people in heart-wrenching ways. And we were challenged to come home and make a difference.
Once again, I learned the ache of awareness. As Sara Groves says,
“Your pain has changed me, your dream inspires
Your face a memory, your hope a fire
Your courage asks me what I’m afraid of, what I am made of,
And what I know of love, and what I know of God.”
(Note the fabulous hair-do; the kids around me were the stylists.)