I honestly can’t believe that I have already been here in Stellenbosch, South Africa for three months! In such a short time, I’ve already had the privilege of: coaching several futsal games, refereeing for a tournament, washing little kids feet, playing professional soccer, leading a bible study, learning Afrikaans, driving stick shift, breaking my wrist, climbing a mountain, and eating springbok and ostrich. The time has flown by!
The first month in January mainly involved settling in to my flat, adjusting to the new time zone, and preparing for the coaching season with “training4changeS.” Absolutely nothing went according to plan, but this is Africa… so nothing ever goes according to plan. Flexibility has been a much needed character trait that I have had to quickly develop along this journey. One of the biggest differences between the USA and South Africa is that we are more “task oriented” while the Afrikaans communities are more “people oriented.” This basically means that it’s cool to show up two hours late to a meeting or miss a practice because you saw a friend walking down the road and you stopped to make conversation. It also means that it takes forever to get things done, yet even though that drives me absolutely crazy, I have been able to invest more deeply in relationships with the people around me.
Coaching the girl’s futsal team has been difficult and challenging. The girls aren’t as committed as girls in the States, and females in sport aren’t taken as seriously as the men. We have to hop over the hurdles of language barriers, discipline problems, low self esteems, commitment issues, bad behavior, and alcohol/drug abuse. I have to admit though, it’s worth every second. If I can impact the life of one of my players by showing them the love and grace of Jesus, it’s worth all of the hardships that I will ever face. The girls love teaching me Afrikaans as well! One of my favorite things is how the girls greet each other. They say, “Aweh (away) Ma (mah) Se (suh) Kind (kint)!!!” which basically means “whats up mother’s child??” I love it. Fair warning, I am bringing that greeting back to the states with me.
During the second month of my journey, I made the Stellenbosch Maties Professional Women’s Soccer team. Within days I fell in love with my teammates and felt accepted as a part of the “Matie family.” Everyone is so different, but we all have the same heartbeat, and that is what unites us. Every girl on my team has a unique story and cultural background, so there is always something new to learn from one another.
This third month, I was blindsided by a soccer injury. I fractured my wrist at practice and needed to go to the hospital for an emergency surgery. This was totally unplanned as you can probably imagine. I am in the stages of recovery, and I am receiving physical therapy for my wrist (which is going great!). I have to say, I am incredibly blessed that South Africa has amazing medical facilities and doctors! My African insurance covered 80% of the medical costs, and I should be back out on the soccer field in about 6 weeks. However, I will from now on… raise suspicions and alarms when I walk through the airport security lines because of the metal screws in my wrist (traveling should be fun).
As far as future plans and long term thoughts, a lot is still unknown and uncertain. My heart would love to stay in South Africa and continue to invest in the lives of the youth here in Stellenbosch for a few more years, but who knows where the Lord’s plan will take me next. Maybe I will start a training4changeS branch in South Florida? Maybe I’ll coach in another country? Maybe I will drop everything and become an astronaut? Only God knows at this point, but I am planning on coming home in November to recuperate and rest my body, to revaluate my plans and goals, and to reconnect with you all.
Lastly, needs. Okay, this is always the hardest part of being a missionary because it requires a lot of vulnerability to tell you guys that I need help. It kicks my pride to the curb and forces me to come face to face with my fears of rejection. Each time I assume that it will get easier, but because of my independent American “do it yourself” mindset… it doesn’t. But what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? And you won’t get help if you don’t ask for it, right? So here it goes…
Because of the unplanned medical bills thanks to my “spur of the moment” injury, I have to pay back the hospital with the money from my monthly budget. This means that the money I would have used to pay for rent, food, electricity, and other expenses will now have to go towards paying off my surgery. The total cost was R58,500 rand, but because of my insurance (thank the Lord) I only have to pay R12,000. The conversion into American dollars comes out to roughly (depending on the changing exchange rate) $1,092. Unfortunately, this also postpones the buying of a car. I don’t have any transport here in South Africa, so I mostly carpool to work and to practice, but in June my roommate will be away leading a coaching course, so this means that I will need to find a new means of “getting around” Stellenbosch. I have about $4,000 saved up from selling my car in the states, but I will probably need another $3-4,000 in addition to what I already have to purchase a used car here in South Africa. I would love to use my car to pick up my high school players for practice, to spend quality time doing work in the townships and local communities, to drive to my Maties soccer practices at night, and to drive to work each morning. Please know that anything helps, whether it’s five dollars, five-million dollars, or anything in between.
To donate go to this website and click on the donate link (all donations are tax deductible): http://ssmfi.org/missionary/samantha-stokesberry/
I would love to be a part of what God is doing here in South Africa for as long as I can, and I want to make the most of this journey. I can’t do it alone. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for your help, and that’s something I thank the Lord for each morning. I have only felt love and support and encouragement from you, and those words are what I hold on to when things get tough (because believe me, every day comes with it’s own set of challenges). The Lord has used you all to show me how great of a provider He is, how I am never alone in life, and how faithful He is to step in and meet my needs, even in the little things. He has shown me that it sometimes just takes one person to change a life, and that one changed life can make all the difference. Thank you all for making this possible, for coming alongside me, and for keeping me on the mission field.
There is a verse in the Bible that has been a huge encouragement to me as of late, and I want to share it with you! It’s from 2 Chronicles 15:7 which says, “But you must remain strong and not become discouraged. Your actions will be rewarded.”