When arriving in South Africa I didn’t really know what to expect. From what I had inquired beforehand South Africa would be dry, brown, and desert like. Now I can easily say that I came in with a totally wrong assumption. South Africa reminded me of home a lot. People were very friendly and some of the landscapes made me think of my small hometown, Holton, Kansas.
On the bus rides to our various visits of agricultural businesses we had the opportunity to embrace the scenery and the world around us. One of my favorite places of the trip was, Elizabeth Falls. No I do not solely say that it is my favorite based upon the name (even though in my opinion the name is pretty cool) but because it was breathtaking. This one breathtaking sight distracted my mind from the real world around us. The world that was comprised of shantytowns we passed daily (shantytowns are an area of land that consist of large numbers of crude dwellings). The world that I was scared to go into…
Driving into the shantytown I thought about all the possible outcomes that could happen. A few of the thoughts that came through my mind were the possibility of getting glared at, kidnapped, or even shot. I was very hesitant to get off the bus. I made sure I didn’t bring any valuables with me as I slowly drug one foot after another finally bringing myself to the African soil. As I got off the bus I honestly was so scared I asked another guy on the trip if he would be my bodyguard. Our tour guides met up with us and started to take us through the shantytown. I walked by many South Africans staring at me. I soon realized that once I smiled, they smiled back. Finally we came to the Kliptown Youth Program (KYP). When we got into KYP they sat us down to describe what they do. I learned that KYP provides a chance for the children in the shantytown to have tutoring, learn about art, and play different games/sports. Before they got done a group of about 15 guys came in with mud boots on and started stepping (stepping is a type of dance). For those of you who don’t know… I LOVE to dance and so when they asked for volunteers to learn a move I was probably the first one to jump out of my chair. After learning the dance move we got to go outside. Many children were running around and playing and we had the opportunity to play with them. I started swing dancing with a little boy who did not speak English. Pretty soon his sister, Nontela, (who can speak English) came over and started dancing with us too. I danced with these siblings for probably a good 10 to 15 minutes and then we had to leave. All the children held our hands as we were walking out and just did not want to say the final ‘goodbye’. As I leaned down to give Nontela and her brother a final hug goodbye the little boy said a word in Afrikaans that I did not know. Nontela repeated him and I told her that I didn’t understand. Nontela did the translation and it translated to one word that will forever be repeated inside my head… STAY. As soon as Nontela said that one simple word my eyes filled with tears as I walked away.
Stay… There are so many meanings that this word could have. Did this little boy want me to stay and play longer? Did he want me to stay an extended period of time? Or did he want me to stay forever? I got back on the bus with this one word running constantly through my mind. I sat down by my friend Lucas and asked for him to give me a minute. I pulled out my headphones and pulled up the song Blessings by Laura Story on my phone and sat there and listened to it thinking about all that had just happened within the last hour or so.
In life we may travel down many different paths. Psalm 119:1 says, “You’re blessed when you STAY on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God” When listening to Blessings on the bus and asking myself one of the questions said in the song, “What if your blessings come through raindrops?” I realized my blessings could come to me no matter where I was at that exact point in life. I will admit to anyone that I judged a book by its cover. The shantytown that I was scared to death to go into ended up giving me the most protected feeling I’ve ever had in my life. I was blessed that day to have been able to STAY a short time in the shantytown and dance with Nontela and her brother.
Whether we are young children, in high school or college, or even when we join the workforce as adults we need to look at where our blessings come from and focus on where we need to STAY in life. By staying where we need to we can be present and concentrate on what we need to do to take our next step. Pay attention to the little details in life that are hinting to you on what you need to be doing. Instead of rushing in life right now… STAY