Libby Shwartz is a senior at NC State University studying Interpersonal Communication. She finds joy in early morning cups of coffee, acrylic paints, and Ben Rector music. This upcoming summer will be her second summer as a Centrifuge Bible Study Leader. She worked Ridgecrest last year and is very excited to serve at Union University this upcoming summer! She recently had the opportunity to go to Johannesburg, South Africa with some fellow FUGE staffers and loved every second of it.
The ground there is nothing but dirt, sand and rocks. The sun shines bright and beams rays of heat that leaves white skin burnt and crisp. The homes stand just short of seven feet tall, made of plastic, metal and cardboard. And the clothes are freshly washed and hanging on a line to dry.
I left my heart in this place. In Soweto, a township of Gauteng, South Africa, that is.
It was left in six year old Offensa’s little shack where Offensa, my teammate and I had an impromptu funny face competition which was quickly followed by sounds of giggles filling the small room. It was left with Offensa’s mother, who was single, unemployed and dedicated to raising a twelve month old baby girl and six year old Offensa with cerebral palsy. It was left when Offensa ran up and gave me an endearing hug goodbye and the sweet memory of walking away, turning around moments later and seeing him still watching us in the street.
It was left in the welcoming greetings and the quick connections where strangers instantly became friends. It was left with the beautiful moments where difference in language did not halt communication, but enhanced it. It was left in the moments of roaring laughter and ear to ear smiles on the faces of seven South African children who wanted nothing more than to be held, chased and loved. It was left in the memory of three of them piling onto my lap and taking turns popping my air filled checks with their tiny hands.
Lastly, and most importantly, it was left with the unfamiliar, but powerful sounds of the Gospel being spoken in Zulu and the reminder that the God we serve embraces culture and His power far surpasses any language or cultural barrier.
My heart is still there. Can’t you tell?
To be completely honest, walking to class this morning was a big challenge. It was hard for me to realize and accept that when I got off that seventeen hour flight yesterday, I said goodbye to South Africa and unwillingly welcomed America back into my life.
As small as this is, it really bothers me that I can’t greet people as I go to class in the mornings without getting a death glare and a snicker here and there from the people surrounding me.
It really bothers me that I feel the pressure to look presentable and nice everywhere I go because of a deep fear of man’s rejection.
It really bothers me that everyday I am subjected to the demands of American culture and its teachings that preach pride and discontentment.
So, you ask, what did I learn in my short time in South Africa? I learned just this. With humility and service, comes contentment. When we are focused less on ourselves and more on the Lord and His work, we begin to deeply appreciate the Gospel in a way that transforms first, our hearts and second, our words and deeds. We lose sight of our own self and become transformed by Jesus, who simply desires our humble submission to His call.
We are called to be laborers. Laborers who attack with intentionality, pursue with truth, and love with grace. So see to it, friends. Because, there is so much work to be done.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” -Matthew 9:37-38