Hi friends. It’s been quite awhile, and I greatly missed being able to write freely, about things that interest me, things that come easily to me, things that matter. This semester was a difficult one, to say the least…22 credit hours, working full-time, health complications…I read nearly 10,000 pages, wrote more than 50 papers, and spent the semester waiting tables in a sushi restaurant to save up just shy of the cost of going to Ethiopia for two weeks in July. You see, I have been able to raise the funds to go to Swaziland twice before, without ever adding money of my own. Because I am going to both Swaziland and Ethiopia this summer, I decided I would work for the funds to go to Ethiopia.
I worked in a very dark environment, one full of drunkenness, sexual immorality; of cheating, unethical business practices, of foul language and foul treatment of workers. When I applied for the job, the manager took one look at my resume and asked, “Can you start on Monday?” I made nearly $300 per week, waiting tables, and was able to talk about my calling and my sweet babies in Swaziland countless times with countless people. I took it upon myself to be the light in such a dark environment. I began praying over each table of customers while I filled their drink orders; I prayed over the silverware I rolled; I prayed over cucumbers and tomatoes as I chopped them for salad toppings. God opened the door for spiritual conversations with more customers than I can even remember, and blessed me through the generosity of my customers. Many times, I found words of encouragement left on credit card receipts, with more gratuity than I had earned. Coworkers began to notice and ask questions. When they asked, I gave them the straightforward answer: I serve a really big God who makes crazy things happen–I’m called to do all things as if I were doing them for Christ. I pray for all my tables, plain and simple. I talk about my Big Why–the reasons for which I do everything. I talk about my babies and the crazy need there is, and people respond. I have gotten more than my fair share of crude remarks from my coworkers, many of whom work two jobs to make ends meet. I’ve watched coworkers take tables in my section or tips left behind because they felt more deserving; I refused to lash out or complain to management to fulfill our command as Christians to turn the other cheek, and give my enemy the shirt off my back. I would come home, exhausted after an 8 or 10 or 12 or even a 17 hour shift, covered in sake and soy sauce, the bottoms of my feet bruised, my back aching, my joints throbbing. My hair began falling out and my appetite dissipated from the stress; I was having trouble eating, because I just didn’t have the time; I was chronically dehydrated; some of my grades began to slip. I was spiritually, physically, emotionally exhausted. I would get up, go to class, go straight from class to work, put in my hours, read textbooks in between customers, write papers while sitting on the floor of the kitchen. I kept praying, and working, and doing my schoolwork. It is now the end of the semester, and I am home with my family. I have been home for exactly one week, and I am still not entirely recuperated from the semester. My health continues to decline inexplicably, and I am yet again bouncing from doctor to doctor to figure out what is wrong.
I do not say this things to complain, or to demonstrate that my semester was more difficult than yours; rather, I tell you because, despite unfavorable circumstances, there is still joy in my heart. I finished the semester on the Dean’s List. I have found a wonderful man of God who cares deeply for me, and who is accompanying me on this upcoming trip to Swaziland. I get to share stories of Swaziland with new audiences every day. My brother, Jacob, who is only 4 years old, gets Africa. All the time, he asks me questions like, “Joey, when are you going back to Africa? Can I come?” I might be tired and worn, but even still, I am making an impact, no matter how small. Exhausted as I am, it took all of my energy for the week to write, fold, stamp, and address and lick the envelopes of the 100 support letters I sent out. I finally got them in the mail yesterday, and I am hoping and praying that each of the recipients finds it in their hearts to give for such a worthy cause. If you feel so inclined so as to contribute, there is a link to the right of this post that will take you to a secure portal through Connection Pointe Christian Church’s website–just make sure you include my name!
There are only 25 days until I leave for Swaziland. 25 days, no hours, 56 minutes.