Homeward Bound

In roughly two weeks, I will be standing in a long line at the Cape Town International Airport boarding my plane back to Miami.  I will get to see my family for the first time in almost 10 months.  I will get to sip on an overpriced Starbucks coffee beverage, and last but certainly not least, I will get to devour a steak burrito bowl from Chipotle (after suffering from some severe withdrawal symptoms due to the lack of quality Mexican food in South Africa).

This is surreal.

So much has happened since I moved to South Africa in January, and about 90% of “what actually happened” wasn’t planned or even anticipated.  I am finally beginning to understand why Jesus told us to not worry about tomorrow.  Because let’s be honest, most of the things we decide to worry about, don’t even happen.  However, despite the uncertainty of the journey (involving the good, the bad, and the ugly), I am beyond grateful for it all.

Let me quickly summarize some of the crazy adventures that the Lord walked me through up until now:

  • I moved to Stellenbosch in January with my best friend, a girl who has been with me through the ups and downs of these past three years.  We shared many laughs together and we’ve shed many tears together.  If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.
  • I coached a high school futsal team in Cloetesville (a colored Afrikaans community) with training4changeS, and that lasted for only a short time.  I learned a ton about adapting to the culture, building relationships with the youth, and identifying the common problems that the girls were facing each day in their community.  Even though the program didn’t flourish, I am grateful for the exposure, the new friends, and the experience.
  • I started playing professional women’s soccer for Stellenbosch University.  I met some amazing girls from all over the Western Cape, and became a part of the “Matie family.”  I learned so much about acceptance, grace, and forgiveness because of this team.  Breaking my wrist during practice and undergoing an emergency surgery was one of the hardest things that came out of playing soccer this season, but I was surrounded by friends who loved me enough to sacrifice their time and effort to make sure that I was okay.  The support of my teammates and my coaches over this past season (both on and off the field) is something that I will forever appreciate.  I’ve learned how to love better because of their love for me.
  • I took a college course in Afrikaans, and dit was baie lekker! I really look forward to learning more and more of the language so I can communicate better with the incredible people around me.
  • I spent a few months partnering with Ambassadors Football at Drakenstein Prison, and we worked with the boys in Hope Academy to teach them life skills, bible concepts, and soccer.  I was inspired by the camaraderie of the soccer team and by their depth of character.  These boys set the standard for respect, discipline, and success within the prison.  Several of the inmates gave their lives to Christ and now they live with a renewed hope for their futures that cannot be shaken.
  • I became a volunteer with the STOP (Stop Trafficking of People) team in Stellenbosch.  I was blessed with the opportunity to learn about the “Traffic Proof” and “Valuable to Jesus” programs, which are two programs we use to teach the kids in schools about human trafficking prevention and respecting/caring for their bodies.  I was given the privilege of representing the STOP team at several high school and primary school assemblies in the Western Cape.  It was such a humbling experience to speak to so many students at one time about such a significant issue.  (Bonus: They loved my American accent.)  As a team, we also had the opportunities to share hugs, hope, and handmade toiletry bags with the sweet women who work in prostitution on the streets of Cape Town.   This past week, I was able to attend the MeCAHT conference, which educated me on the local issues involving sex trafficking within South Africa.  It also helped to equip me to fight against the human trafficking problems that are happening globally.

There is so much more that I can share about this past year, but it will most likely turn this into a novel, so I will keep it brief instead!  I wanted to reach out to all of you now since I will be returning home November 4th.  However, (to my fellow South Floridian friends and family) I would love to meet with you in person or (to my friends and family living elsewhere) I would love to chat over the phone when I get back.  It will be wonderful to reconnect and catch up on all of the things that occurred over this past year.

Also, I wanted to present you with a “possibly maybe” plan for the future.

During my furlough in Miami, I plan on spending significant amounts of quality time with my family (until I drive them crazy and they threaten to send me back to South Africa prematurely).  That will be priority number one for me.  My next priority will be to fundraise as much as possible for next year’s adventures.  God has provided abundantly (through all of you) for all of my needs over the course of this last year.  I was able to live within my allotted budget, and I even have some money left over to put towards my return to South Africa!  (Hallelujah for the exchange rate!)  My goal will be to raise enough money to live off of about $1,800 a month for at least twelve months.  So far, I have three months saved up, so I have a long way to go, but I know that the Lord is faithful and if He wants me to return to South Africa… then I will.

There are a few up and coming “events” that I am praying over, and I would love some prayer support from you as well concerning these great opportunities.  I’ve learned over this past year that not every “open door” is meant for me to walk through (no matter how attractive it may be).  There’s been several times when a seemingly great opportunity presents itself and the Lord says, “Sorry Sam, this one isn’t for you, I have something better in mind so be patient and wait on Me.”  With that said, I am praying over a trip to Vancouver with Calvary Chapel that will be happening February 4-10th.  I was offered the privilege of attending this trip as a co-leader, which will thankfully cut the cost of the trip in half (I would need to raise $875 instead of the full amount).  The purpose of this trip will be to reach out to the women within the Porn Industry at an expo taking place in Canada, and also to reach out to the women working in prostitution during the evenings on the streets.  We will be working with one of my all-time favorite organizations, XXXchurch; they work to help those who are struggling with addictions to sexual immorality and/or pornography, and they also do ministry with the women in strip clubs and brothels.  My heart longs to love on those women in Vancouver and I have a desire to help them recognize their worth and beauty.  I would absolutely love to go on this trip, so we will see if I get the “green light” and the funds to go.  My plan would be to return to SA after this adventure (but I am still waiting on the Lord for an answer).

Lastly,  I am praying about attending a trip to Uganda in March of next year with the STOP team.  We will be there for about a week traveling around to different communities and speaking to the army wives and children about the dangers of human trafficking.  We are also planning on going to the Northern part of Uganda to reach out to the refugees in the refugee camps within that area.  We want to offer those people everything we have when it comes to love, grace, wisdom, and knowledge.  This trip will be a bit dangerous because of the location and it is definitely outside of my comfort zone, so prayer for this trip is vital.

One final note, I want to thank you all so much for your encouragement, your support (both financially and emotionally), and for your constant love.  I have had so many days that discouraged me to the point of wanting to give up and come home, but each time I saw an encouraging comment on Facebook or an email with kind words, I’ve been motivated to keep pressing forward.  I would not have been able to do this without you.  I hope that you all are as encouraged as I am because every single one of you left a mark on South Africa.  Even though you might not have been able to step onto this soil, you made a human impact on me and on everyone that I met.  For that, I will forever be grateful and amazed!   I can honestly say that I have so much love for you.  Thank you for believing in me and thank you for allowing me to live out the passions and the dreams that God has put in my heart.  (And thank you for taking the time to read this because I know it was long!)  Hope to see you all soon!

2 Chronicles 15:7 — “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.”


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