In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

In All Godly Quietness: USA Visit Via London

If there’s anything Peace Corps service has taught me, it’s the necessity of waiting.

My nature rebels against the humility and simple surrender of acknowledging that further action will avail nothing; the outcome is beyond my power to influence; there’s nothing to do but place my trust in the Lord…and wait.

In some small areas, my expectations have made the adjustment: the taxis to my shopping town, the line at the grocery store, the printers at school. Although service providers here rarely hurry and sometimes acknowledge requests reluctantly, that doesn’t mean they aren’t responding. A patient smile does wonders for my health and theirs.

It’s the big questions – about career, family, and the future – that send me into the wrestling ring with God. As a Christian blogger pointed out, there’s a difference between waiting for something you know will happen (eventually) and waiting when you’re not sure whether it ever will. The Biblical images of sowing and reaping acquire new resonance for me as I wonder when the time invested in these critical areas will begin to bear fruit.

Sometimes when the answers do come, they aren’t what we hoped: Shortly after the holidays, Sydney, my dear friend and sister in Christ, said good-bye to Peace Corps South Africa.  She’s home now, convalescing and preparing for her next adventure in God’s service.

We stole one last evening together when Sydney returned to collect her things and bid her host family farewell

Then again, sometimes God blesses us after we’ve given up hoping for it!

At the end of January, one long-awaited blessing came to fruition, when I traveled to Ndumo to celebrate my birthday with Judy. The last time I trekked to her site, it was a bear of a journey, with long waits by the side of the road and multiple transfers en route.

This time, it could not have flowed more smoothly. The very first taxi driver stopped me as I was disembarking: Where to next? Ndumo? We’re going there, too.  I arrived so swiftly that Judy had to race to catch up!

There I submitted the application that had been hibernating cozily in my travel bag since – can you believe it – June of 2019. Six months later, I find myself the proud owner of a South African library card. It was almost surreal to browse the shelves, marveling at the difference between their stock and the personal libraries of the friends who have rescued me from literary starvation in the interval.

Judy treated me to lunch at her friend’s new restaurant! Then we cobbled together mint chocolate muffin mix with cookies crumbled in sweetened condensed milk for a creative tuxedo dessert. To make the whole experience even sweeter, some local teachers spotted us on the way back to the taxi stand and gifted me with a lift home

At school, my role for this partial year is still evolving.  I launched the term with a new project: converting their textbook storage room into a reading space for the learners.  My hope is to begin hosting remedial classes here for those learners who were “progressed”: meaning, they aged out of the previous grade without passing their classes.

Meanwhile, in the community, I decided to conclude my wait at church and start volunteering with Sunday school. The lessons are fantastic Zulu practice, as they are conducted essentially without any English but aimed at 8-12 year old speakers. That plus following along in an English Bible helps to orient me.

I’ve been fantasizing about teaching the local kids how to navigate the books of the Bible, ever since I spotted several struggling to search for a verse reference. My experience with development work so far has taught me, however, that it might be better to…wait. If the lead teacher invites me to give feedback or there’s ever a need for a substitute lesson, I’ll be ready!

Sunday school lessons with Sabelo, a young man from Swaziland

For one of our church’s expectant mothers, the wait is over!  Little Sienna arrived almost two months early.  After a rocky start at life, she’s starting to thrive.

Something else that comes with time: accepting the company of South African critters with aplomb:

Periodically the people in our area run out of patience and stage a “strike,” or protest. They block the roads with rocks, glass, logs, and sometimes wrench the guard rails across the lanes.  A few words suffice to sum up their motivation: usually “water” and “electricity.”

February yielded long-awaited answers for my question (what will the Japanese and Exchange Teaching [JET] Program decide about my application) and my family’s (when will Kittie come to visit again?) when JET invited me to interview in Washington, D.C. After extensive negotiations with Peace Corps staff, I arranged a lightning fast visit: only two nights in the USA.

Long layovers granted me abundant opportunities to splurge on airport dining:

In-between pick-ups and drop-offs, shuttling me to and from the airport, in and out of D.C., we squeezed in a celebration for my sister’s 30th birthday:

Stephanie’s cake of choice: almond tart stacked with berries

Bad weather bumped my flight, landing me for 12 hours in London:

That afternoon, Africa found me again: Relatives of Petra, that intrepid teacher who welcomed me under her wing when I first arrived in KZN, hosted me for a tour of the British museum!

It delighted me to view in person the same works we studied from a projector in Art History – like this Assyrian stonework

The only blot on my trip happened at the very end: rushing through the Heathrow terminal in search of an outlet, I somehow misplaced a tote bag full of books and personal papers – including irreplaceable handwritten letters.

I’ve filed a claim with the airport, asked a bevy of friends and family to pray, and check the missing item inventory regularly. Now there’s nothing to do but…

…wait.

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