Many people ask me if what I thought Cape Town would be like is how I am actually finding it. South Africans will usually ask me, “Did you think that there would be lions and giraffes freely walking around?” To which my sarcastic side sometimes gets the best of me and I bluntly respond with, “Well….no…because I at least did a quick google search before I decided to move here for two years!”
I know, it’s terrible and probably isn’t the most loving response. I’m working on it, I promise.
The thing is though, no matter how much of a google search I did or no matter how much I talked with people who had lived in South Africa, it still wasn’t enough to prepare me to up and move to a foreign country. And even though many South Africans, and Capetonians in particular, are proud that this city is not like the rest of Africa, it still is really different for me. This is not the USA. This is not my home. This is not where I grew up. This is a foreign country to me.
The other day, I was driving somewhere with my supervisor and I commented on a bakkie (pickup truck) filled with too many people squeezed into the open air cab, just hurtling down the road ahead of us. This is something that is quite common here and in other parts of the world…but it isn’t something that I am used to and always makes me cringe. The responsible, worrisome part of my brain goes into overdrive, thousands of thoughts about the safety of this situation flurry across my mind. Then, my supervisor said something to me that I think about quite often when I start to go into comparison mode. He said, “You know, since you came here…I didn’t think anything like that was weird. I thought it was normal. It’s something I grew up with. Now, after spending time with you and answering your questions and listening to your observations, I don’t know what to think anymore!”
I’m thankful for moments like these conversations. Yes, this was just in reference to the rules of the road. The beauty, though, of living in a foreign country for such a long time as a Global Mission Fellow is that you do get to build relationships with other people and ask those hard questions. You get to challenge those norms, or in some cases, even re-evaluate your own norms. I’m thankful to be able to learn from my fellow Capetonians…and I’m thankful that they are learning from me.
When I have moments where I’m frustrated with how things do (or don’t!) work around here, I always remind myself to go back to the reason why I signed up for this experience. I think of Colossians 3:12, 14, which states:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience…And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
I’m thankful to remember the humanity within each of us. I’m especially thankful to remember the uniqueness of each and every person, created in God’s image. And as the verse says, we are each chosen and dearly loved, regardless of what or how we find “normal” to be.
Sowers of the Word Church
Cape Town, South Africa
Global Mission Fellow, Class of 2015-2017