Day 10: The End

In the last ten days, I have taken 6 cold showers. I have been rattled around in the back of khombi. I have taken 20 sleeping pills. I have finished somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 bottles of water and no Dr. Pepper. I have slept for a total of 45 hours. I have taken well over a thousand pictures. I have held more hands, given out more hugs and kisses than I can count.

My heart is so heavy.

I am sitting on the floor of the Johannesburg airport in an obscure corner amongst an assortment of refuse left behind by I don’t know who because I found some unsecured wifi. My heart is heavy, and my eyes red and puffy from crying. I did all of my packing last night and skipped breakfast this morning so I could stay in bed and in denial for as long as possible, and even that was not enough. Eventually though, I did have to get out of bed. I had to load my suitcase into a trailer and climb into the backseat of a khombi. A quick pitstop at Ngwenya Glass eased some of the pain—an hour’s delay with our favorite missionary family and the opportunity to drown my sorrow in a chocolate shot, which is exactly as it sounds, a small shot glass of melted chocolate for only 7 rand. My little shopping buddy, Iliea, stuck close by my side with her hand in mine the whole morning. I was really doing okay emotionally, until our final moments. We napped some photos before sweet Iliea presses a note, a coloring book page and a necklace into my hand. I love her heart so much:

Dear Joey,

Thank you so much for letting me be your shopping buddy. I had a really great time. Can you come and live with us in Swaziland? We could use another missionary around here. I’m gonna miss you so much. I love you so much. Make sure you come back to Africa.

Love, Iliea

My eyes watered a little bit, but mostly I smiled and hugged her as tight as I could. A round of prayer left my eyes more wet than normal, but still I was okay. It wasn’t until I had hugged all the children and Stephen and gotten to Krista, her eyes already emptying themselves, that I started to fall apart. She hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “I know two more years sounds like a long time, but God’s timing is perfect. Two years is exactly what you need to be prepared for Swaziland. It’ll go by faster than you think. We just have to trust his timing.” And I cried. I cried as I hugged her children again. I cried as I climbed onto the khombi. I cried as we pulled away and the kids chased us waving goodbye and blowing kisses. I cried as we crossed the border, and finally, finally, until I ran out of tears. It seems as though I have found some more, because my eyes are leaking now and people are looking at me with quizzical expressions.

Ecclesiastes 3 tells me that there is a time for everything, a season and a purpose under heaven. 10 days ago it was my time to be in Swaziland; in a little more than an hour it will be my time to return to the United States and I’m not a fan of this arrangement, but this is the timeline I have to follow. I have roughly 355 more days until I can come back and I WILL be keeping track. Leaving for the second time will be even harder than the first. Two years is a long time and patience is not one of the virtues God has graced me with. But still I am here, on the airport floor, trusting in God’s perfect timing. If it was just a matter of waiting on God’s timing, I could probably handle this…but there is so much more to it than that:

Who is going to love my sweet babies while I am gone?

Who is going to make sure that Tengetile has shoes that fit and don’t have holes in the toes? Who is going to make sure Khetokuhle is doing well in school? Who is going to make sure they take their vitamins and get enough to eat and drink clean water? Who is going to remind them that I love them, even if I’m ten thousand miles away? And what about the unsponsored kids? Who is going to hug them and hold their hands and remind them they are important, that they matter, that God has a plan for their lives? Who is going to give them sweeties and sing them to sleep and make balloon animals and take their pictures? Who is going to tell my babies that they are kuhle kakhulu, so beautiful?

Who is going to love these kids like they deserve to be loved, in a culture where children are viewed as a burden?

I know God’s plan is perfect, that he loves me and these children as he loved his own son, that he hurts when we hurt and that there is in fact a plan, but I am having trouble trusting today.

There are only 355 days until I come back, and only two years until forever, but this is the end for now.

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