I moved to South Africa 5 years ago. FIVE YEARS.
An organization I’d never heard of said they wanted to be a part of building hope and home. And so did I. So I packed up life as I knew it, and I went to see what that looked like at Ten Thousand Homes.
To see what building hope looks like, you have to go to the places that need it.
For me, that looked like entering the yards, the shacks, and the hospital beds of the people whose eyes don’t sparkle and whose bodies betray them. (Yes, I did get in the hospital beds with them.) It’s looked like heaping plates for hungry bodies, baking cakes for the uncelebrated, praying and crying together through grief and loss, sitting in police stations with young girls reporting the unfathomable, dance parties on the playground, inviting them over for Sunday Lunch, holding up the arms and energy levels of the nurses providing constant care, testing for HIV and making plans, and modeling how to live like a family.
Hope for tomorrow can come in a million flavors, but you can’t taste it when you’re starving today.
For the past five years, building hope has looked a lot like digging the trenches. It’s really dirty and difficult. You go down instead of up. You just get knee-deep in mess. Trust me… the backlash of trying to teach malnourished bodies to absorb nutrients is a lot messier than a shovel and dirt.
But after all that hard work, you get to build a foundation. There’s a place to start building something strong and that will last.
Hope lasts. And makes everything looks different. It looks different than a dirt pile and different than a pile of bricks.
And, pretty soon, it will look like a place to live.
When I enter the church yard for our after-school program today, armloads of sparkly eyes will pounce me; Ruth will hug me and pick me up so high I will wrap my legs around her waist; and we will get to work in the secure and beautiful routine we’ve established together. When I drive through Dwaleni this morning, the babies whose bodies I carried to the hospital will be skipping and giggling to school in their new uniforms while their mom cleans their new house and applies for jobs.
I may have only influenced a Condor-load of people in Africa, but that little group isn’t starving or homeless anymore. Their bodies can absorb nutrients; their heads have a safe place to rest at night; and their hearts can hold hope.
So now it’s time to build it up.
Hope-building is changing. It’s growing up.
It’s becoming a place to abide instead of an emergency to respond to.
And as happy and holy as that might sound, I’m struggling.
When our bodies grow up, we have growing pains, awkward body changes, and, suddenly, you get BO. (Fine… I admit it… I’m freaking out that I just had to buy deodorant for 7-year old Lifa.)
So, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I’m going through awkward body changes, and Lifa stinks.
Those little distended bodies in the communities are being transformed into strong and thriving students. And now everything about how we work as a part of the Body of Christ is changing.
It’s like hope puberty.
We have a foundation, and we’re ready to build. We have bodies that can get up and dance.
We don’t need to change the dirty diapers of crisis and chaos anymore. We can teach them how to think and thrive and believe on their own. We can teach them how to build it too. That one Condor full of nourished bodies can start nourishing bodies.
Right now, instead of staying constantly covered in dirty children, ringworm, snot and tears (which happens to be my happy place), hope-building looks like planning meetings, vision-casting, research and education, program development, and things that involve not being continuously covered in whatever we find in the trenches.
And I need some hope deodorant or a hope training bra or something. The next stage of life is coming, and it involves higher capacity, higher influence and trusting God to transform the desires of my heart to the things He’s calling me into.
The Body is growing, increasing, and extending in beautiful ways. This is what it’s supposed to look like. She’s becoming a beautiful bride. I’m thrilled to be a part of it, and I’m humbled and honored that the Creator of the Universe cares enough to grow me up and let me get glimpses into a deeper love. I can’t imagine what it looks like – that day when we’re not building hope, but we’re dancing in the Father’s Home. He takes us step by step, stage by stage, and He transforms these awkward steps and stages into something beautiful.
Pray with me in this place of hope-growing and body-changing.
Good things are coming. The Body is being made beautiful.
And I’m just awkwardly trying to learn how to love in a new way.